Monday, June 28, 2010

Early Summer Garden Update

It has been very hot here in the Valley. The heat has gotten the lettuce and spinach, so we planted squash and zucchini in their places. There has not been much rain, but with extra watering, the other plants are growing well.
There are little cherry and better boy tomatoes growing. There also are lots of blooms on both tomato plants still!
The okra is growing great with the heat. The zucchini and squash have sprouted and are beginning to grow little leaves.
The cucumbers have blooms and the some of the cabbages are ready to harvest. The peppers have blooms and are growing peppers.
The pole beans are growing up the tepees and some are over the top of the tepees. The bush beans have blooms and a few little beans.
I hope that your garden is growing and producing well too!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Harvesting Peas

This year, we planted some sugar snap peas. We planted six rows to enjoy. On Saturday, we got a bucket of peas, and today we harvested another bucket. There are still some blooms and unripe pods, so we hope to pick some more fresh peas within the next few days!
There are two classifications of peas, English and Southern. English peas include garden, snap and sugar varieties. Southern peas include black-eyed, purple hulls, creams, crowders, pinkeyes, and silver skins. Southern peas also go by many names such as field peas, cowpeas or protopeas. This year's peas would be considered part of the English varieties.
Peas are vining, so they can grow up a trellis. We purchased some 6-foot tomato stakes and stapled chicken wire to them. The peas even grew over the top of our trellis!
Another interesting note about peas is that any over-ripened pods left on the vine will signal the plant to stop producing. Also, over-ripened peas get starchy and do not have as sweet as a flavor as ripe peas. Peas also do not stay at the ripe point very long, normally just a day or so. We are picking our ripe pods so our plants will keep producing!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Floating Fruit and Strawberry Jam

Last Saturday, Momma and I made some strawberry jam. We made 9 pints. Momma and I used the same recipe as last year from the Ball Blue Book. However, we quadrupled the recipe last year, used two types of pectin and ended up with floating fruit over a strawberry syrup.

Strawberry Jam
Yield: About 9 pints

4 quarts strawberries
2 packages powdered pectin
1/2 cup lemon juice
14 cups sugar

Wash strawberries; drain. Remove stems. Crush strawberries one layer at a time. Combine strawberries, powdered pectin and lemon juice in a large sauce pot. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, or until slightly gelled. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

The first load in the canner separated. However, the second load of 2 did not since the jam sat out while we were waiting. I added the wait to the recipe... We also had our first jar breakage - thankfully it was an empty jar!

Since the second load started to gel while we waited, we realized that the others would probably gel as well, even though they were separated. We have a helpful e-Book on canning that noted that rolling jars with separated syrup and fruit after they sealed would mix the fruit and syrup together and allow it to set up correctly. We rolled the separated jars and the jam mixed and set up!

The great e-Book is called Every Step in Canning by Grace Viall Gray. Even though it was written in the early 1900's, I have gained some very helpful and useful tips on canning. It also is an interesting read to see the history of canning and how it has progressed over the years since then. Mrs. Gray also was a home economics teacher and used some of her expertise in the book. This e-Book is available at at a very reasonable price. I highly recommend it!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Rhubarb - Pie Plant

This Monday, Momma and I made strawberry rhubarb jam. We made 11 half-pints. This is the recipe that we used. We will be doing some strawberry jam again within the next few days.

My Momma's Grandma (GaGa) always made strawberry rhubarb pie and jam when Momma was growing up. GaGa would drop the pie off at Momma's house after Momma got home from school. Momma would sneak a piece before her parents got home from work just like GaGa planned.

Rhubarb actually has a sour/bitter flavor and is combined with strawberries in pies and jams to make it sweeter. They both come due around the same time. It was introduced to Europe in the17th century. It was nicknamed the "pie plant" for its common use in pies.

We tried to grow a rhubarb plant, but Kathie, our dog, decided to dig it up for us. We got our rhubarb at Heartland Harvest again this year!