September 24, 2011

End of the season

With the end of the summer it comes time to take the garden out and do something with the "fruits of our labor".  I'm a rather lazy gardener.  As a kid I was made to go out and work the family garden, which usually means standing out in the hot sun weeding around vegetables I generally don't like.

The end of summer meant no more weeding, but sometimes it had its own challenges, like the one time my folks decided to can and freeze a couple bushels of peaches.  I hate peaches.

Yep, I'm a whiny SOB.   I don't begrudge folks having their kids contribute to the family's welfare.  There is nothing wrong with planting vegetables your kid doesn't like.  Canning peaches just plain sucks and I don't cut that exercise any slack.  Eat your peaches fresh or buy them canned....that is all I ask.  Oh, that and please don't eat them around me or put them in the only cobbler you made.

I'm also a lazy SOB.  I try to take reasonable shortcuts where I can.  When I canned tomatoes I first ran all my tomatoes through the juicer, separating the pulp from the juice.  The juice I let sit a while to separate and I draw off the juice.  I reconstitute the juice with the pulp and then process that.  This puts the peels back into the mix, but it gets so shredded that it isn't a concern.  Sure beats blanching the fruit and then having to cook it for a long time to get the water out of it.

Our garden this year consisted of two 4' square raised beds.  I went to Home Depot and picked up several 2" x 8" x 8' boards and some metal corner joists.  They cut the boards in half for me and I assembled them at home.  I did till up the ground where the beds were to go, but the boxes were filled with a mix of topsoil, peat moss, and steer manure.

One box was planted with two tomato plants and some catnip and the other was planted with four tomato plants, one in each corner, and a zuchinni in the middle.  We didn't use cages for the tomatoes, but instead staked them.  My "work" outside of the initial planting was simply watering every day and some limited harvesting.

In retrospect, I wished we had used cages as the tomatoes sprawled out far too much.  The zuchinni wasn't exactly confined that much either.  I also wish we had planted earlier.  Our cherry tomato produced well, but the other plants were not doing so well.  I expected one plant would mature in time before it got too cold, but the other three I wasn't sure about.  No worries, I'll just harvest the green tomatoes!

I dug up all the tomatoes except the cherry tomato and pulled off every green tomato I could.  There was a lot more fruit than I had expected, enough to make two large batches of green tomato relish.  It took me two days to prepare and process everything.  In the end I have about three gallons put up in 4 oz, 8 oz, and 12 oz jars.

You can probably guess one of the things we're giving away for Christmas!

In case anyone was interested, here is the recipe I used this year.  There was a specific recipe I used last time I made this about a decade ago, but I couldn't find it.  After searching online for a couple hours, I ended up taking a couple recipes I liked and mashing them together with a couple tweaks to match what I remember:

Green Tomato Relish
5 Qt Chopped Green Tomatoes (or Tomatillos)
6 Green Peppers
3 Red Peppers
6 Onions
6 Cloves Garlic

Grind above ingredients into a pot, turn over into a large sieve and drain for at least 15 minutes.

While draining, make a spice bag (doubled cheesecloth or a mesh strainer ball):
1 Tablespoon rough crushed Mustard Seed, or dry mustard
1 Tablespoon rough crushed Celery Seed
1 Tablespoon rough crushed Cloves, or ground cloves
1 Stick Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon powdered Ginger
1/2 Tablespoon salt (1 & 1/2 teaspoon)

Return the drained vegetables to the pot and add the spice bag.  Heat to a boil and simmer for 90 minutes.  Process in a hot water bath for 15' (20' if you live in Boise, due to the elevation).

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