November 29, 2012

Sweet Potatoes & Green Tomatoes

A couple years ago, I had a problem with my sweet potatoes, black rot. Well, it's a problem again this year. So many of my pretty looking sweets developed those same ugly spots as they cured. Rats.

Photo from October 2010, but this year's look the same. :(

This is a virus, correction, a fungus, which will spread during storage. It is said to impart a bitter taste, though my goats don't seem to care. But I care.

At that time, I decided to can as many as sweet potatoes as I could.

Freshly canned sweet potatoes, October 2010.
Canned with light sugar syrup, 90 mins @ 10 lbs pressure

As a way to preserve sweet potatoes, I'd say this method is so-so. Handy in a pinch, but not as flavorful as freshly baked sweet potatoes. Best use, baked goods such as quick breads or muffins.

To salvage this year's harvest, I looked at two different methods. Freezing is one. I want to try partially baking, wrapping in foil, and freezing to finish baking before serving. I'd also like to freeze some puree. Back in the day I used to puree and can something similar, pumpkin. Now the USDA has added purees to the list of things not safe for home canning. I suspect eventually everything will not be safe for home canning.

The second was to dehydrate. This is a bit more time consuming, requiring peeling, slicing, and steam blanching for 3 minutes, but, what better excuse for hanging around the wood cookstove on a chilly day. :)

I rigged that up a steamer with a large pot and my colander, using the preheated water from the cookstove water reservoir to give me a head start.

I wouldn't use that water for cooking, but for steaming, I didn't have a problem with it.

These went into the dehydrator at 125° F until hard.

Dehydrated sweet potatoes

I'll have to let you know how well these work. For some, even though I cut off all the dark spots, I discovered that some perfectly good looking pieces blackened with drying. I separated these out. They'll eventually soften somewhat in our humidity, and I'll see what the goats think of these. A good source of vitamin A when fresh forage is scarce.

For previous years' green tomatoes, I've made green tomato jam, which is yummy, and canned slices for fried green tomatoes, which is a real treat.

Photo from Nov. 2011.
How well do they fry? Click here.

Both of these recipes are keepers. I still had some jam in the pantry however, and after letting the largest of my green tomatoes ripen on the window sill, the rest were too small to slice for frying. I decided to try a couple of new recipes.

Pickled green tomatoes on left, Green tomato conserve on right

The green tomato conserve is from The Art of Preserving by Jacqueline Wejman and Charles St. Peter. The book was a gift from Benita (Basically Benita) and has quite a variety of good looking recipes. It called for tart apples, and I even had enough of our homegrowns to make it. The lemons I had to buy, because my Meyers lemons aren't ready.

The second experiment was a green tomato pickle for which I used Mrs. Wage's prepackaged Bread & Butter pickle mix. Dan likes pickles made from it and I can usually pick up a package or two on summer clearance every year.

Samples leftover from canning were pretty tasty, but I don't think Dan is convinced, simply because the tomatoes are green instead of red. I'll allow that the color isn't as attractive as products made from ripe toms, especially if any of the them are starting to turn red, of if apple cider vinegar is used like I did. Green + orange or amber = a muddy color. Hopefully, taste will win out in the end.


Practical Parsimony said...

I just bought 80 lbs of sweet potatoes ($20), enough to last me through the winter. I went to the farm and bought from the owner. Then, I noticed that some of them were very dark in places. I suppose I will go through all of them and find all the blackish ones and return them. I am so glad I read your post today.

I am considering baking, spreading thin in my Excalibur dehydrator, and then putting them in the blender to make sweet potato powder. Then I can rehydrate.

If they are not really sweet from the canning jars, I know I don't want to can any. My variety, Beauregard, needs no sugar or butter to be creamy and sweet. They are very dark orange inside. I just did a post showing them baked.

Judy said...

Here is my family's favorite way to use up green tomatoes.

Green Tomato Relish
1934 Watkins Cookbook

2 lbs chopped green tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup hot vinegar
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp mustard seed
2 tsp pepper

Grind vegetables in a meat grinder on corse for ease. Mix vegetables, let stand one hour. Squeese out the liquid. Add sugar and vinegar to which the seasoning in a spice bag have been added. Cook 10 minutes, pour into clean hot hars and seal.

Mother liked this recipe because there were no exotic or expensive ingredients. Nether one of us used the spice bag, we used 1/2 tsp ground cloves and stirred the spices into the whole thing. There is no need to make small batches. We alway weighed up our tomatoes and then add whatever multiplies of the other ingredients we needed to finish out the batch.

I wanted someone else opinion on modernizing the canning process (Open kettle doesn't cut it for me.) so, I ask Jackie Clay about processing and she said she would have no problems water bath canning this for 15 minutes for less than a 1000 ft and 20 minutes for 1000 to 6000 ft. Some of the other recipes I was researching called for even less time like 5 and 10 minutes. I'd rather cook it a bit longer than be sorry.

So next year if you want something different give it a try. I think it makes an excellent relish that is not cloyingly sweet.

Farmer Barb said...

In my experience, things that are green must be disguised. Some type of dye food--my favorite for jams is elderberry. It doesn't upset the flavor or moisture balance and is a natural antiviral. Thus "Old Rue" Elderberry-Rhubarb and "Old Goose" Elderberry-Gooseberry. As for hiding the color of a pickle, there's always beets...I don't know if Dan will be wild about PINK pickles, though.

BTW, I am so sore today, I can barely move.

Carolyn said...

I didn't have a source for "good" sweet potatoes nor did we grow our own, so I stocked up on the grocery store sweet potatoes when they were on sale during Thanksgiving and canned seven quarts of them. I basically did what you did with a very light sugar syrup. Hoping they taste ok, otherwise like you suggested, they'll be made into pies or muffins. Which, I guess, isn't that bad anyhow :)

Leigh said...

Linda, great score! And yes, I'd keep an eye on them and use up any with dark spots first. The spots can be cut out, the rest of the sweet potato will still be tasty.

I love the idea of the powder. I did mine too thick the first go round, but I still have plenty to experiment with.

Of canning, I have to say that I canned Porto Rico, which we did not find as sweet and tasty and the Vardamans I planted this summer. That may have been part of it.

Judy, thanks! I like that the recipe can use as little as 2 pounds of green tomatoes. Some recipes seem to big, especially when the green tomato harvest is small.

I agree about open kettle canning. I thought it wasn't recommended anymore but I notice places still sell that type of canner. With the vinegar in your recipe, WB sounds perfect.

Barb, that does seem to be true, especially with sweet or pickled green things. Not too sure about the pink pickles either, LOL. I must say though, that I envy your being able to grow rhubarb and gooseberries. Our summers are just too dang hot. I do have elderberries however. :)

Carolyn, I would do the same thing! After Practical Parsimony's comment, I'm thinking the variety may make a difference in regards to canning quality. Like you, I made mine with a light sugar syrup. I would do it again if I had no other choice, and they are handy for baked goods. Still, I'm exploring alternatives. :)

Madness, Trouble, Squish and Milkbone said...

FYI Black rot is caused by a fungus (non a virus)Ceratocystis fimbriata.

Renee Nefe said...

growing up all we ever did with green tomatoes was to fry them. But last year a friend of mine let me try her dill picked tomatoes...YUMMY!

I just had a brilliant thought. he he

Doug Pitcher said...

One of our favorite things to dehydrate is beets. I imagine we'd be similarly happy with sweet potatoes if we could grow them here. You commented that dehydrating is more time consuming than canning. I'd agree it takes longer but I think canning is way more difficult. I always feel like a mess at the end of a canning day but putting in a batch of dehydrating food just seems easier to me.

Leigh said...

MTS&M, I knew that! Thanks for catching it. I didn't even notice. :o

Renee, no fair!!! You can't tell me you had a brilliant thought and then not tell me what it is! Mean, mean. ;)

Doug, that's very true about dehydrating. I think what makes it time consuming for me, is not only the time for one batch, but the time for multiple batches! I suspect it's a matter of habit mostly. I'll have to let you know how the sweet potatoes reconstitute. They definitely take up less space dried. I did try to dry beets, but lost them due to mold.

DebbieB said...

Why on earth has the USDA declared purees to be unsafe for home canning?

Laura said...

I would think that if the ph of your puree is 4.6, you could water bath can it. Citric acid, maybe? If you added time to the pressure canning, would that do the same job (making it safer?).

I'm just starting to get into canning (my first foray was canning 13 chickens several years ago), but it seems like there are a whole lot of people who have eaten home canned goods and not expired... I'll be you could can pumpkin chunks and puree them when needed...

Leigh said...

Debbie, it's a "not sufficient data" thingy; something to do with not being sure the center of the jar gets to the correct temperature. There is a better explanation here, Why Can't I make home-canned pumpkin puree, pumpkin butter, or pumpkin pie filling?.

Laura, pumpkin is never recommended for water bath canning; pressure can only. I reckon you could pickle it, but that doesn't sound too tasty, to me anyway :) Chunks, as you mention, are the recommended way to can pumpkin. Not sure if the canning liquid would make the puree too wet(?) I'll have to experiment with my canned sweet potatoes.

DFW said...

Thanks for this post Leigh. I have a small stash of sweet potatoes that I need to check.

I dried sweet potatoes last year. I had actually forgetten about them until I 'found' the jars just recently.

Farmer Barb said...

If it is a fungus, do you have to skip several years to make the soil happy or do you have to heat it up? In CA they were fond of the "Black Plastic Sheet" method. A big sheet of plastic weighted down and left to super-heat and sterilize the topsoil. It is good for weeds and some diseases.

I have never grown sweet potatoes, so I know not.

Lynn said...

It's fun reading about your canning and dehydrating experiments. Like you, I'm always trying new stuff, figuring out the best ways to preserve what we've grown. I've never tried a pickle mix -- it sounds like you would recommend it? This year we canned just a few jars of dill pickle spears from cukes we'd grown -- but some of our cucumbers were bitter, so we labelled a few of the jars "bitter pickles" ;) Haven't opened any of those yet, but we had one of the regular jars of pickles at Thanksgiving and it was yummy. Glad to have found your site :)

Leigh said...

DFW, let me know how you like them! Also, what recipe you use. :)

Barb, that's something I really need to research this winter. I have heard of the solarization method to sterilize soil with plastic. This will make a good wintertime gardening research project.

Lynn, thanks! I'm guessing your bitter pickles will be fine. I've used overgrown bitter cukes to make relish, and you'd never even know. I reckon it's all the vinegar!

Mrs. Wages pickle mix was something I picked up on sale one time, instead of buying all the spices. Dan loved it. I'm not sure it has the best ingredients, and hopefully I'll eventually be able to grow all my seasonings some day soon.

tnladybug said...

We fry a lot of squash. I wonder if you could can them the same way you did the green tomatoes? Not enough freezer space.

Leigh said...

Good question. We love fried squash too, but I've always read that it isn't recommended to can summer squash. I think it's too soft. Green tomatoes on the other hand, are pretty firm. I don't find summer squash freezes very well either!

Kris said...

I usually roast my extra sweet potatoes, cool, chunk or mash, then into a bag and freeze. They taste great when thawed/ warmed and I usually have enough for the whole winter that way. I've even used them in 'pumpkin' bread with great success.

I've never tried drying them. Looking forward to see how you use your dried ones. Otherwise, you really seem to have a handle on this. :-D