Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Take Your Canning Outside and Beat the Heat!

I saw something on facebook the other day that stopped me in my tracks.  Normally, I flip through the status updates and shared photos rather absently.  But this.  This was a deal changer.  Once I saw it, I knew I had to have it.  Yeah.

HOLY CRAP how did I never think of this myself?

Not a week ago I was dreading canning season.  It's running late this year like everything else and I just wasn't looking forward to heating up the house with simmering and blanching and processing endless batches of salsa and sauce and etc. 

So.  I bought a propane camp stove.  I should say up front that I'm not a camper.  I don't enjoy sleeping on the ground with the bugs and the rocks.  Cooking outdoors really is limited to burgers on the grill for me.  Until this morning.

I got a Camp Chef double burner propane stove from Amazon.com.  No.  They did not give it to me to test.  I bought it myownself after spending a couple of evenings reviewing reviews.

I fired that puppy up first thing this morning after getting my first batch EVER of ketchup going in the kitchen.  I used the crock pot for the actual cooking which might be another post altogether.

So this is what it looks like with the water bath canner going full tilt on a sunny Tuesday morning in September.  I processed thirty-two, 4 ounce jars of ketchup.

Since I didn't feel right about leaving this set up to run on its own, I spent my time waiting for the processing to finish sitting in the shade with a good book and a cup of coffee.

I admit there might have been more than one cup of coffee.  It took 40 minutes per batch of jars. There were 3 batches.

Alton Brown is so much fun.

And that might be my favorite coffee cup.

Here's a nice, close shot of some of those jars.  We have really, really hard water in our little town so the jars are covered with a haze of calcium and magnesium salts.  Fortunately, the haze will wipe away with a damp cloth.  I've been told that adding a little vinegar to the water bath helps keep the salts from collecting on the jars.  So far, all it has done for me is make everything smell like pickles.

So that's my new set up.  I could not be happier with this arrangement.  The best part is that I did not heat up the whole house and crank up the electric bill.

I have ketchup.  I have a cool canning set up.  I have an excuse to sit out in the shade and read a book.  What's next?  Next I get out my pressure canner and give it a go.  After I process the pizza sauce I have cooking up right now.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Long Awaited Promise Fulfilled

Earlier in the year, I hinted at something really cool that was coming to my garden this summer.  Good things come to those who wait:

Many, many thanks to my wonderful husband for constructing the base and helping me assemble my fantastic little greenhouse.  A lifelong dream has come true.  I can hardly wait to use it!!!  He'll be doing a more in depth blog about the actual construction and when he does, I'll link to it.

We still need to finish the floor and install shelves but the bulk of the job is done.


Found it!

Wonder of wonders! Today I found my long lost and much lamented Garden Journal for 2013.  So I spent a little time reading up where I left off and then softly swearing under my breath at all the things I had to update.

I lost the journal shortly after returning from vacation in early June.  So most of the planting and etc. had been done already. Between the blog here and my sieve-like memory, I hope to piece enough information together to fill in the biggest blanks in the journal.

So, while I try to piece things together, let's have a little fun with before and after pictures.

New beds:

Tomato and asparagus beds before.

And after.

Herb garden pot:

Potted herb garden before.

Potted herb garden in August.
Pumpkins and dill:
Tiny pumpkins and dill before.

Tiny pumpkins growing ON the dill.
Oh yeah!  I have a way better thing to show you than this.  Hang on a tic.