July 29, 2011

July Harvest (And Preservation)

Garden harvest is in full swing this month. Every day involves one or more of the 3 P's: picking, preparing, and preserving.


Sweet bread & butters
The cucumbers are still producing, though they seem to get bitter quickly in our heat. I've got most of the pickles we need. Last month I started pickle making and finished up the sweet pickle chips this month.

Gallon of lacto-fermented dills
I also thought I might try my hand at pickles the old fashioned way. These are lacto-fermented sour dills, and boys howdy are they ever sour. I used the "Sour Pickle" recipe on pages 50-51 in Sandor Katz Wild Fermentation. I'm not particularly fond of pickles and only make them because Dan enjoys them. These have a lot of pucker power, even for him. Still, I've discovered they are quite tasty with a grilled hamburger.

Cucumbers preserved this month:
  • sweet pickle chips, 6 pints canned
  • sour dills, 1 gallon fermented 
Total canned pickles preserved so far this year:
  • 11 pints dill pickles
  • 16 pints sweet pickle chips
  • 1 gallon sour fermented dills


Fingerling potatoes
I've harvested the fingerling salad potatoes, you know, the ones in my pretty marigold and petunia beds. I have to say that while cute, I haven't found them to be very productive. Of course if a bunch of volunteers pop up, I'll know I did a poor job with the harvest. They've made tasty potato salad however.

In addition to these, I've harvested some volunteer Red Pontiacs, along with some volunteer beets, carrots, and turnips. All of these we eaten fresh, the carrots in cole slaw and the others roasted. None preserved, but I've saved a lot of seed.

Slim pickin's, literally

Sadly the blueberries are about done. Last year I harvested them all July long and into the first week of August. Because of the goats however, we only got two weeks worth this summer. In spite of my best goat deterrent methods, they still continued to sneak in and help themselves. We had most of them fresh and I froze a few quarts. Jam making was from all the quarts I froze last year, but we didn't eat.

Blueberries preserved this month:
  • frozen, 7 quarts
  • jam, canned from last year's frozen quarts, 10 pints  


Last year I planted Hale's Best cantaloupe, this year I decided to try something new, Green Nutmeg melons. I'm having trouble telling if they are ripe or not. They have a delicious flavor, spicy and sweet, but the flesh has been crisper than cantaloupe and I'm not sure if this is what to expect when they're ripe. Watermelons too, are just coming on. We will eat our fill of fresh melons and I will dehydrate and freeze the rest. We loved the dehydrated watermelon, and the frozen cantaloupe, while not so good for table use, was great in smoothies

Melon preserved this month:
  • green nutmeg, dehydrated, 1 pint

Summer Squash

Sauteed in olive oil, yum
This year I decided to try a scallop type squash, Bennings Green. We especially enjoy summer squash freshly picked and sauteed in olive oil with a little salt and fresh sweet basil. Last year I decided to try freezing some of my abundance of yellow squash, but there are 6 quarts still sitting in the freezer because I really didn't care for them. Still, what does one do with one's summer squash once the neighbors have been inundated and have taking to running and hiding when they see me coming with more offerings in hand?

I decided to go ahead and freeze some, but try a different form. I shredded them with my King Kutter, laid the shreds out on cookie sheets to freeze, and then bagged them in quarts. I figure I can use these in soups and vegetable pancakes. Or at least try them these ways. We'll see.

Summer squash preserved this month:
  • 2 quarts shredded & frozen


I started my cabbages indoors last winter, and I'm just now harvesting the heads. I showed you how I've been treating for cabbage moths in my July garden update, and pictured on right is how well the thyme sprinklings have worked. I haven't preserved any cabbage; we do love sauerkraut, but we've been enjoying these with carrots as cole slaw.


Making pizza sauce
Pizza sauce is my tomato preservation priority. I call it pizza sauce, because that is how we usually use it, on pizza. (Spaghetti or lasagna occasionally). We used 21 of the 33 pints I canned last year, so that gives me an idea of what I'll need this year. At a minimum, I like to have at least 26 pints in the pantry. More would be better, either for increased use or if my tomatoes don't do well next year.

I make mine the easiest way possible. I wash, quarter, and cook down a potful of tomatoes. Then I run them through my Foley food mill. I cook this down in the slow cooker to about half the original volume.

Handful of garden fresh oregano,
thyme, & rosemary
Fresh herbs are an important ingredient. I used to carefully remove the leaves from the stems before using. Now I just cut a big handful and throw it all into the pot. The leaves cook off the stems, which are then easy to pick out. I add salt to taste last, and then can in pint jars. We prefer pints because of the way we use it.

Stewed tomatoes & okra

The other way I've been preserving tomatoes, has been as canned tomatoes and okra. I ended up with quite a bit of frozen okra from last year, about 12 quarts. Since frozen foods have a shorter shelf life than canned, I figured I'd cook the okra up with fresh tomatoes, and can that.

Frozen tomatoes peel easliy
I needed the tomatoes peeled for this. The reasons I don't can tomatoes (as tomatoes) is 1 - we rarely use them canned for one thing, and 2 - I find peeling them to be too hot and time consuming. I read though, about freezing whole tomatoes first, and then peeling. I tried this and discovered it works great. I just dip the frozen tomato in water and it peels beautifully. So much nice working with them this way than over a kettle of boiling water! I figure I'm probably saving on my electric bill too, because the freezer is running anyway. An added plus, is that I can pop them in the freezer when ripe, and come back to deal with them later, either for the okra, or to cook down for more sauce.

Okra. In addition to dealing with last year's frozen okra, fresh okra has been on the menu. Not in large quantities yet, but I've managed to put a few quarts by in the freezer.

Tomatoes and okra preserved so far this month:
  • Pizza sauce, canned, 24 pints 
  • Tomatoes & okra, canned, 16 quarts
  • Okra, frozen, 2 quarts

The other thing I just got first pickings of, is green beans. That was an adventure in itself, so I'll tell you about it soon.


The Apple Pie Gal said...

Glad to see you are getting some things up on the shelf!

Jody said...

Wow! You are busy. Thanks for taking the time to share this very helpful post. I'll bet Bel will want to try freezing and peeling tomatoes too. It gets so hot in the kitchen during canning season.

Dani said...

Wonderful produce and harvest from your garden. I'm salivating at the thought of the taste of the fingerling potatoes :)

Kids and Canning Jars said...

My goodness you sure have been busy!

Nina said...

I always grate all my extra zucchini for the freezer. I pack it in sizes suitable for muffins. One thing we do is always add it to spaghetti sauces. It adds lots of flavour and bulk in a bolognese sauce or bumps up a vegetarian sauce. I love freezing tomatoes 'cause you just have to wash them off and toss them in a bag. So easy!

CaliforniaGrammy said...

I'm a newcomer to your blog and I've learned a great trick this morning—that of freezing tomatoes and then easily peeling them, thanks! Your garden seems to be a giant compared to mine, but by coming to visit your blog will inspire me to enjoy what harvest we get.

Laura said...

Anything you don't like (like frozen squash) can be fed to the chickens (or goats). They will love it, and it still is a part of self sufficiency!

I don't know that I'll get a fall garden in or not, but I'm gonna try!!

Trixi said...

Oh, wow, your harvest is looking great. Your slim pickings on blueberries is more than we got. I think I need to fertilize this spring. I hope they come along.

bspinner said...

Your harvest looks so yummy!!! I agree with Don, sour pickles are the very best!!!

Tami said...

Great tip about freezing the tomatoes...I'll have to try that!

Leigh said...

Richard, your photos are always excellent. I know everyone will enjoy this.

APG, it's a relief, especially since the garden seems so iffy this year!

Jody, I'm glad it's useful. I admit I'm spacing my posts out more than I used to, but then we're all busy. I agree about the kitchen. Hopefully next summer I'll be doing all my canning on our back porch.

Dani, the did make a tasty salad. Not sure if I'll plant them again or not however.

Melissa, 'tis the season, LOL

Nina, great idea about adding shredded veggies to sauces. I'll be sure to freeze lots of those squashes!

CaliforniaGrammy, welcome and thank you for you nice comment! I'm very happy to always pass on what I learn, knowing others will do the same. I much prefer the freezer for those tomatoes now. I may have to start canning them after all!

Laura, I tried to feed some to the goats but not the chickens. The goats looked at me like I was nuts, but the chickens aren't so fussy. :)

Mrs. Trixi, I confess I'm a little disappointed about the blueberries, My first harvest was terrible, but I mulched with pine needles and made sure they got plenty of water during fruiting. What an amazing difference all that made.

Barb, thanks! I love anything lacto-fermented and think I'm developing a taste for those pickles!

Tami, I think you'll find it easier than the boiling water to ice water dipping. And cooler too!

Seeking Serenity said...

my mom used to make home made bread & butter pickles- my favorite!
I laughed at the poor blueberries-
such a contrast to the bounty

Kendra at New Life On A Homestead said...

Wow!! Wonderful job!! Man, you've been one busy lady :) Don't feel bad about your blueberries. My goats completely destroyed 9 out of 10 of my blueberry bushes. The one lone survivor gave me a whopping THREE berries this year. Blah.

Enjoy your harvest!!

Nellie from Beyond My Garden said...

Our cabbage has been great. Your jars of b & b pickles make me wish we had planted cucumbers.

Mama Pea said...

Oh, what a bunch of great ideas and tips you shared here! You being in the midst of your canning and preserving makes me miss my own garden and harvest acutely. But I did so much stocking up last year (knowing I wasn't going to do the full-blown garden this year) that we're still in good shape for homegrown goodies to eat. Not that it will be quite as nutritious as food preserved fresh this year, but still a gazillion times better than store bought!

Evelyn said...

Great harvest and I love the look of your pickles. Too bad about the blueberries though. Wild huckleberries are just beginning here - very late this year.

trump said...

A great pickle recipe, im a fan of the sour pickles myself. I know when you would stop at a Amish food stand they seem to have more of the sweet ones for sale than anything. Richard

Angie said...

I also have to thank you for the tomato in the freezer trick. Peeling has always been one of my least favorite things to do.

Leigh said...

Peaceful, aren't homemade pickles the best? The blueberries are disappointing, but next year we'll have the bush fenced off and have a better harvest!

Kendra, oh no! Goats are something else when it comes to their favorites aren't they?

Nellie, I didn't get a lot of cucumbers our 1st two years, but this year we did better. I made as many pickles as I could!

Mama Pea, I'm sure you think about it every time someone blogs about their gardens. Still, you planned well and had good reasons. Next year you'll have a fantastic new pantry to store it all in!

Evelyn, at least we have plenty of blueberry jam. I'll just have to make the frozen berries stretch, which I think I can since I froze too many last year.

Richard, are you? It does seem most folks prefer sweet, but I really like these and would definitly make them again.

Angie, so glad you and others find it useful. I learn some of the best stuff from other bloggers!

Eleanor @ Planned Resilience said...

Thanks for the tip on tomatoes. I've never heard of freezing them to peel them. Much better than blanching! Anything to stay cooler right now is a good thing. :)

Anonymous said...

you can use the squash in a pie. just use your fave pumpkin pie recipe and substitute squash.

Leigh said...

Eleanor, you're welcome. Always glad to share what I learn. I agree about staying cooler!

Anonymous, I've done that with winter squash and loved the pie, but never thought to try a pie with summer squash. Since the water content is higher in summer type squashes, do any adjustments need to be made to the recipe?

Just Me said...

Thanks for the tip on freezing tomatoes! The majority of my tomato canning has been either as juice or sauces because I detested peeling hot tomatoes. I'm addicted to the use of a Squeezo for processing tomatoes. It's a hand-cranked gizmo that uses an auger to push fruit pulp & juice through a screen while the skin and seeds come out the end. Just wash and cut the fruit to size to fit through the hopper. Often no cutting for Roma or other pear tomatoes. I used to process a lot of tomatoes this way, allow the pulp to settle then pour juice and a bit of pulp off the top for canning as juice and put the rest in the slow cooker to can as pasta or pizza sauce the following evening after re-filling in the morning the slow cooker's reduced volume with onions, mushrooms, squash or whatever additions for the sauce were handy. Kept the house cool by canning with a propane stove on the back porch.

I just moved to my ranch full time in Texas and have only 3 tomato plants that were late starts. I'm really looking forward to the fall garden and next Summer's return to stocking a pantry.

Leigh said...

Just Me, hello! I think we've exchanged tips, LOL. I've heard of the Squeezo, but never really realized how useful it could be. Another item for my wish list! Sounds like you've really perfected it too. And very wise to have a canning porch! I plan to have one next summer too.

Congratulations on moving to your ranch! I know you must be excited. 3 tomato plants is a very good start.

Lisa said...

Hey Leigh!
I love your posts because I always learn some thing from you.

Have a questions about your tomato/pizza sauce. Do you skin the tomatoes before you quarter and cook them down? Love your freezer skinning tip. I'd heard of that but never tried it...just seem to be locked in to the routine of always using a pot of boiling water...but this year I'm trying your freezer method. I think the deer has gotten to our wild blueberries this year.

Leigh said...

Lisa, thanks for your kind words!
When I make sauce or juice, I do not skin the tomatoes first. I just wash them, cut them up, and toss into a pot. I find I don't even need to add water if I start on a very low heat, because as the tomatoes start to slowly cook, they release their juices. I figure I'm going to run it all through the food mill anyway, so why bother with an extra step.

I hear you about being locked in to a particular routine. I'm really needing as many shortcuts as I can get however, so I'm finally willing to experiment a bit and change things up!