No Down Time in the Farm Kitchen….

I managed to make another batch of both dill (8 pints) and sweet pickles (7 pints) yesterday afternoon, using 12 pounds of cucumbers. There are still many pounds of cucumbers waiting their turn in the prep kitchen fridges. So far, I’ve made 71 pints of pickles this year and I’m sure there will be more! We plan to share pickles with friends and family in the year to come and will have our holiday gifts at the ready! With red bows, these green gems even fit the holiday colors and will certainly be ready for eating by that time!

IMG_4798I also froze some of our green peppers. From what I’ve read, green peppers do not require any blanching before freezing. What a relief…one less hot, boiling pot on my stove! It has been a wonderful year for peppers…I guess they just love the cool, wet summer we have had and as a result, they have nice, thick walls and are large enough in size to rival those you see in the stores.

IMG_4800So, I washed and sliced my peppers, laid them on half sheets which I then froze for an hour before packaging the pieces by tucking them into Ziplock Freezer bags and removing the excess air with a straw. No, I have not invested in a vacuum sealer yet! 

IMG_4801I got exactly 4, one pound bags and expect many more before the harvest is over. Now if only I could get some red ones!

Today I moved on to tomato processing….finally! We have been waiting to have enough big tomatoes to makes sauces and Catsup with and we finally do. (I can’t decide which spelling I prefer for this…Catsup or Ketchup…I may have to investigate the origins of the spellings and then will decide. Somehow, the version of ‘Catsup’ makes me feel ‘behind’ which is a constant feeling but not a positive one. I may have to switch to Ketchup! Dave’s input is that one of these may be a patented name by one of the companies that produces it. More homework!)

This year we planted 4 types of tomatoes from Burpee – Sweet Cherry 100s, (which we have dubbed Sweet 1000s since we get sooo many cherries off of these plants!) Romas, Celebrities and Big Boys. Our research says that the Roma tomatoes are among the best for canning and you can see why. IMG_4808

They are very meaty with few seeds or gelatinous material between the chambers. Their skin is a bit less red and more orange color in tone which threw me a bit since I kept waiting for that deeper red color to come about and it did not. This is also a very firm fruit to the touch. When processing, there is very little waste which makes them a very tidy tomato to prepare. Here are the little darlings I used today. IMG_4807

I attempted to make an all Roma sauce today, but did not have enough of them and so added some of my other large tomatoes. (Excuse the nauseatingly out of focus photo.) I’m pleased with both the Celebrity and the Big Boy too. IMG_4811

It was a tough call to make sauce rather than catsup today since there is nothing more fun than making catsup. It smells divine while cooking, which it does FOREVER, but that will be my next happy tomato adventure once I get some sauce under my belt.

This is the time of year when we take our bathroom scale and move it to the mudroom area in order to weigh up the heavy stuff. I’m not sure why we keep it in the master bathroom since I obviously am not stepping onto it very often. IMG_4815

It came in handy this morning as I was weighing up 16 pounds of cored and trimmed fruit! IMG_4813

I put this on the stove top to cook down and wouldn’t you know it, one of my favorite wooden spoons snapped at the weight of the stirring! IMG_4814

After this came to a boil, I gave it another 15 minutes of cooking before turning off the heat. I let this gloppy mess cool down a bit and then put it thru my food mill to get rid of the skins and seeds. IMG_4816

Here are the resulting skins and seeds, ready for the compost. IMG_4817

I really wanted to try out my new food mill but I need to investigate a location for this tool so that I get the best production out of an awkward set up. IMG_4820

As you can see, this lovely item clamps onto a surface and then allows one to crank away at the cooked product while separating the skin/seeds from the meat/juice. I plan to work on a better way to set this up in the future, but in the meantime, I did not mind using my old food mill one bit today since it is dandy too.

Here is the sauce, simmering away on my stove top. IMG_4818

It needs to reduce by anywhere between 1/3 and 1/2 before being thick enough to be considered tomato sauce. This process takes hours!  I was pleased to have gotten as much sauce as this from the weight of tomatoes I cooked. I think the Romas had some impact on this outcome.

What do you do while waiting for the sauce to reduce? Well, Farmer Dave is working his butt off out in the fields but even he is somewhat limited to his activities since we had a lovely rain yesterday and over night. Our gauge says it was less than half an inch but it was so welcome and more is predicted in the days to come.

I can’t really leave my post here with kitchen duties since I need to stir every so often. So, besides writing the blog, I have been busy with a couple of other items. Dave brought home additional canning jars from Walmart today. IMG_4821

And I then had to get them sterilized in a hot, hot dishwasher cycle to use. IMG_4822

I have also been “watering” the orphaned orchids that people tend to give me for rehabilitation. I think this is due to the fact that just about every big box store has orchids for sale these days but no one really wants the ones w/o blooms…except for me! Yes, if you have a place to let them to sit, bloom-less, they will eventually spike a new shoot and be full of blooms once again! IMG_4741
In my opinion, the best way to water these is with ice cubes, which melt slowly and allow the plant to absorb moisture over time which is what they prefer. The other plants that like this method are Mother-In-Law Tongues. This is a very old type of plant that my mother always kept as I was growing up and so I have affinity for it too. They like ice cubes as well. IMG_4742

So, here is the result of an entire day of processing tomatoes into tomato sauce, with the final output being a great tomato sauce. I hope you can have appreiciation that 16 pounds of tomatoes were transformed into 5 pints of sauce. One container cracked, bummer.IMG_4823


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