August 31, 2011

August Harvest & Preservation

There's been a lot of good eating out of the garden this month. Quite a bit of food preservation too.

Tomatoes. I have to admit that since I learned the trick about freezing tomatoes to peel them, I've been tossing all the ripe ones that we don't eat, into the freezer to save to make juice and sauce later. :) This has relieved me of some of the time pressure that comes with a heavily producing garden. After I had two plastic shopping bags I got to work...

Tomatoes preserved in August:
  • tomato juice, 16 quarts canned
  • pizza sauce, 3 pints

I also used garden tomatoes in the chicken & okra gumbo I canned.

Chicken & okra gumbo. Just add rice.

One thing I've figured out about canning soups, is to strain out the liquid first, divvy up the meat and vegetables amongst the jars, and lastly add the broth. This way I get fairly equal amounts of solids in each jar.

Preserved this month:
  • chicken & okra gumbo with tomatoes, 11 quarts canned

Okra. Of that, I'm still getting more than I need. Besides the gumbo, I've also made and canned okra pickles.

Pickled, canned, okra pods

We've never tried these before, but so many of you recommended them last month, that I just had to give them a try.

Okra preserved this month:
  • okra pickles, 6 pints canned
  • frozen, sliced, 6 more quarts

My prettiest pepper so far
Sweet Peppers. I didn't have very good luck with any of my peppers this year. None of the seeds I planted indoors last spring germinated. Neither did any that I sowed directly into the ground. I finally had to buy 3 sweet pepper plants just to have some.

Even these haven't done well however, due to blossom end rot, the dryness, and the heat.

I like to preserve these by slicing and freezing for pizza and pepper and egg sandwiches. We won't get much for that I'm afraid.

Preserved this month:
  • a handful, frozen

Figs. For two quick weeks at the beginning of the month, we had figs galore.

Bucket of ripe fresh figs

Besides the traditional August fresh fig cake, we don't eat these fresh, so all are preserved. I still have plenty of canned figs from last year, so this year I decided to preserve by making jam and dehydrating.

Halved figs ready to dehydrate

I wondered if I could substitute dried figs for raisins in recipes ....

Oatmeal fig cookies

The answer to that is, yup. They rehydrate well too, for cakes or muffins. One of these days I'd like to try  making a filled fig cookie too. Anybody have a good recipe?

Figs preserved this month:
  • fig jam, 13 pints canned
  • dehydrated, 1/2 gallon

Melons have been ripening and we've been enjoying both watermelon and green nutmeg melons.

Sugar Baby watermelon

We eat our fill and dehydrate what we don't eat. The nice thing about drying melon, is that it's a good option for both under or overripe ones. It makes a candy sweet, sort of fruit leather, perfect to snack on.

Melons preserved in August
  • watermelon, dehydrated, 1 quart
  • green nutmeg melon, dehydrated, 1 quart


Elderberries (what the birds didn't get)

I'm afraid the birds got most of these. They start eating them green (as they do the figs & pecans) so the humans don't seem to stand as much of a chance. My bushes are still young and just beginning to produce, so the elderberry harvest will only improve as the years go by.

Rose Hips. I also harvested my first handful of rugosa rose hips. A couple years ago I researched rose hips for jelly making and I read that they are best after a frost. Well, our frost isn't for another two months yet look....

Rugosa rosa hips

Some of them are drying out and shriveling. They simply won't last until October on the bush. So I picked them. It was just a handful, but it's a start.


Kentucky wonder pole beans on left
Hutterite soup beans in middle
Cowpeas on right

The Kentucky Wonders in the corn, I've given up on. The last time I picked there was just a handful of fresh eating size to be found, so I'm just going to let them dry to collect for seed. Fortunately we still have plenty of canned green beans from last year, so I decided not to worry about it except for fresh eating.

The Hutterite soup beans are being picked regularly. We have yet to do a taste test, so I don't know whether or not we'll grow these again next year. I do like a good white soup bean though.

Cowpeas continue to produce, but I'm saving all for seed next year. I'll grow them in the field then for feed.

Beans preserved this month:
  • Kentucky Wonders - dried for seed
  • Hutterite Soup Beans - 1.5 pints dried
  • Cowpeas - also for dried seed

Black Oil Sunflowers (BOSS)

The drooping heads of black oil sunflowers

I planted these in two places; in the garden as companions to squash and melon, and in the field, on their own. The ones in the garden have done much, much better than the ones in the field. The ones in the field were disappointing, engulfed by weeds, small heads, many empty shells. The ones in the garden produced well. So well in fact, that I've been in competition with the birds for them

Several of the heads were bird pecked

BOSS ripe & ready to pick
When I saw that happening, I checked to see if the kernels had filled out with  seeds.

Sure enough they were ready. So I cut off the heads and put them on our screened front porch to dry. Without the ones in the field, I won't have a lot for feed, but I figure, live and learn, and I've got a start.

With September right around the corner, I have to say that both the garden and food preservation are winding down. Soon I'll be able to count the summer totals for my efforts, and put my summer garden to bed until next spring.


Seeking Serenity said...

WOW Awesome!!
My dad used to pickle watermellon rind,and make elderberry jam my favorite-hard work but worth every minute!
I have never seen blackoil sunflower seeds that big,usually those are the striped ones.What will you use them for?

Doyu Shonin said...

Another approach to tomatoes, which I use, is to cut sndwich-sized slices off them, usually six to nine, as one might from an apple, so that there is a pile of thin slices with peeling on them, and a "naked" interior. The interior goes into the stock pot for puree, and the slices into the solar dehydrator, skinside down. Saves on sticky dehyrator shelves without resorting to wax paper or whatever.

Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

I would love to be able to grow figs. They look so good.

Mama Pea said...

Holy moley, Leigh, you're doing such a great job at growing (I know some years are better than others) a true variety of foods on the homestead.

Great idea of divvying up meat/veggies/broth when putting soups by. Duh. Why did I never think of that?

I've never tasted okra, just heard it's kinda mucilaginous but I think I might like okra pickles.

Did your halved figs take a long time to dry in the dehydrator?

Sure envy your ability to grow dry beans. We can grow them but our short season doesn't allow enough time for them to dry property.

Great post!

Dani said...

Leigh - Love your solution for peeling tomatoes - somehow I missed the posting on 29th July.

Thank you :)

Sharon said...

I've been wanting to make salsa, but dreaded peeling the tomatoes. I'm going to try your freezer trick!

Leigh said...

Peaceful, I've never had elderberry jam, but I think I'd love it. We did try watermelon rind pickles once, but nobody at them! The black oil sunflower seeds will be fed to the chickens and goats. They are one type that are soft shelled, so they'll eat them shell and all.

Risa, excellent idea! Thanks! I often have those ends left and never liked feeding them all to the chickens.

Jane, there are some hardy varieties, I think. Or some dwarfs for indoor or greenhouse growing(?)

Mama Pea, thanks! Yes, okra is mucilaginous, which is why it's used as thickener in soups and stews (and gumbo of course). The way we love it best, is sliced, dipped in batter, and fried. Unfortunately, I rarely fry anything, but I do slice and saute with onion and garlic. If not overcooked it doesn't get slimey so it's a nice compromise.

Regarding dehydrating the figs, I think it took about 10 hours at 135 F. Next time, I think I'll quarter them so they're more raisin sized.

Dani, I'm not sure where I found that information; somewhere on the internet! Isn't it great what we can learn from one another?

Sharon, it's why I always dreaded making salsa too. Or even simply canning tomatoes. Very easy, very time saving.

Laura said...

Here's another thing to do with dried figs - make figgy pudding. I heard this several years ago on NPR, and have made it twice. It's wonderful...

Also, fresh ones make very good jam, especially with ginger.

I miss figs - it's too cool where I live and will be too cold where I'm going! Oh well...

The Apple Pie Gal said...

I have been freezing alot of tomatoes this year for sauces later too. It sure did relieve alot of the stress of getting too many things done at once.

Woolly Bits said...

puh, you do get a lot from your garden! I think even if I spent more time in the veggie plot, I could never rival your harvests - your climate is just so much more favourable to growing! our highest temp. this summer was 23 deg. C - on one day only! the rest was closer to maybe 16 C:(( but about the rosehips - I never wait until the frost, because the birds start pecking on the ripe hips and destroy them pretty badly:(( also, when they are fully ripe the frost will reduce them to pulp, at least with the rugosas. the smaller ones have tougher skin and last better, but then you have less "meat" on them and a lot more work with the de-seeding:)) I am picking mine off in batches as soon as they are ripe, scratch out the seeds and hairs and freeze them, until I have all I can get. then we have a rosehip jam making feast:))

Susan said...

Excuse me while I wipe the drool off the keyboard! I miss being able to grow so many good things, but our grow season is so short that it takes a concerted effort to get much of anything. Always have to be aware of the weather report (possible freezing temps any time of year). But I am going to trade eggs for tomatoes with my physical therapist, and I got some fresh figs when I went to the valley last week. Congrats on your successes!

vlb5757 said...

For the first time this year we decided to plant lots of beans a second time. I love Jacob's cattle beans for my dried beans. Our second planting now has flowers. I don't have as large a garden as you do but we sure have had fun with the thing. Thanks for sharing your garden. I have learned all kinds of things.

Rosamargarita said...

Que abundante y sabrosa cosecha, siento lo de las semillas de girasol!
Un abrazo

Anonymous said...

So glad to see what you grew, and your successes and disappointments. It helps us all learn from each other. Never heard of the dehydrating melon, will definitely have to try that, my daughter and I love melon!

Mr. H. said...

Wow, you have been busy with quite a wide selection of harvest activities.

Nice figs, those oatmeal fig cookies sound really good...mmm.:)

Leigh said...

Laura, thanks for the link. You know, Dan has always said he doesnt' like fruit cake, yet he does like that fresh fig cake. So I'm thinking that he will probably like the figgy pudding recipe too.

My recipe for fig jam suggests optional cinnamon, which I tried and is really tasty. Ginger sounds like it would be an excellent addition as well. Will have to try next year!

APG, that is so true about taking the pressure off. Actually I froze my figs too, before making jam. I didn't leave them in there long, just long enough to do my jam when I had some breathing room.

Bettina, so true about climates! The trade off is that the middle of our summer is too hot and too dry for much to survive, let alone thrive! I appreciate the info about the rugosa hips! Very helpful. Jam sounds lovely. :)

Susan, LOL. And thanks! Great idea to trade. Always the next best thing.

Vlb5757, I admit I eyed Jacob's cattle beans in the seed catalog. I will definitely have to give them a try. It's interesting how different the varieties taste.

Rosamargarita, I'm just thankful for the ones I got!

Stephanie, I agree about learning from one another. In fact, I learned about drying melons from other bloggers!

Mr. H, it's been great. Very thankful for those figs!

trump said...

Lots of information in this post. We talked about canning a little on my site, my question has been "how long can something last if its canned"?. I know its going to be a good while but how long. Richard

Grace said...

Wow, Leigh. I'm impressed with your harvest! Thanks for all the good tips, I always learn something from your posts. I have a fig tree, I found out, so I will be trying those oatmeal fig cookies. I made fig and strawberry jam this summer and it is my favorite jam I have ever made. I'm going to do the F.R.O.G. jam, too. I had never tasted a fig before this year. Love them!

BrokenRoadFarm said...

Wow! You have been busy! I think I found an elderberry bush on our property - I was reading about them in one of the Foxfire books and when I saw the picture, a light bulb went off - however I chickened out on picking them, cuz I just wasn't 100% sure it was the right bush...not worth it to poison us!

Leigh said...

Richard, excellent question. Opinions vary from folks who throw it out after a year, to articles like these, which have analyzed canned goods decades old and claim they're still edible. I think a lot of it has to do with comfort level, but I'm perfectly happy to eat things I canned years ago. In fact, I'd like to have at least a two year supply of everything, in case of crop failure one year.

Grace, I had some strawberries in the freezer when I made the fig jam, but knew that if I combined them, I'd be fussed at for "contaminating" the strawberries! LOL I suspect that the different varieties of figs have different flavors. I don't know what ours are, except that the trees are very old. They are exceptionally bland fresh, which is why there's no interest in eating them that way.

BRF, I agree about proper identification! Once you get it ID'd for sure, just think of all the luscious things you can do with the berries. :)

* Crystal * said...

Hmm, I love figs....Haven't had them in years (local grocers don't carry them) but they are one of my favorite foods! After your pictures, I've decided to plant a fig tree next year! :)

We love, love pickled okra..... my grandma always pickles a few garlic cloves in each jar & we always compete to see who gets them first. lol

Loved all the pictures & updates, but now I'm hungry!! Oh, that chicken & okra gumbo sounds YUMMY!!

trump said...

Very interesting article Leigh, and 40 years for a jar of canned corn, and it still tasted fresh, wow. That blew me away. Thanks Leigh. Richard

Andrew said...

Hey, now that things are finishing up, are you going to do a winter cover crop? The wheat I got from southern states in early august and put in when it was so dry finally started coming up with the 3+ inches I've gotten so far from this tropical storm. I wish SS would label whether it is genetically modified or not. Oh well. I got distracted building some wood rails for my truckbed this weekend instead of working on my grain thresher. Maybe next weekend. It's going to be an expensive trip to tractor supply anyway to get what I need for that. I wish I knew a reliable timing scheme for planting winter wheat and oats. If my field corn starts to harden up soon I can yank it out real quick and get some wheat or oats into the upper part of my garden. My buckwheat I put between my grapes is really jumping up with this rain. Pretty soon I'll be back to where I was earlier with my drying shed, I'll have to add more videos :)

luckybunny said...

I LOVE the chicken gumbo idea! Awesome.

Leigh said...

Richard I thought it was interesting as well. From experience, I know though that over the years color fades and sometimes texture softens, which makes the food less appealing. Still, it's nice to know that if it's done properly, those canned goods could still be used if needed.

Hey Andrew. We definitely plan to plant winter wheat after we finish harvesting our field corn. I started on that today (delayed by rain). I thought about getting my seed wheat from one of our feed stores, but hadn't thought about the GMO stuff. Good point. I can get 50 pounds of organic whole wheat from an area health food store for about three times the price as feed wheat. Maybe it would be worth it though! Have you checked with your Cooperative Extension office for information on planting? Thanks for the link to your videos. A great way to share!

Donna, thanks! I usually prefer file gumbo, but with all that okra.....

Andrew said...

Cool, I am interested in seeing how organic wheat goes. The local extension agent is... err... a "dairy" person. I'm sure he is great at judging a dairy cow competition. He's a nice guy too. At the same time I've gotten so many non-answers I've pretty much given up trying. But you're right he probably would know about winter wheat.