Garden View

Garden View
Hello and Welcome! I decided to start this blog for everyone out there who has an interest, or WANTS to be interested, in living a life that is a little more sustainable. I am still learning, and invite you to follow this blog to learn along with me. I will share what I have learned as we go, and hopefully you will pitch in and share what YOU are doing to live a little more off of what you can grow and DO from home. PLEASE BELIEVE ME when I say, if I can learn how to do this on a very small backyard plot in a city, then ANYONE can do this!!

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Piccalilli and the Coop-Scoopin' Boogie, Continued


Ah, Chore Day.  It's the day of the week where adults and children alike happily skip about, moving form one chore to the next on their own ambition.  No reminders or arguments about responsibility and doing your part.  Nope-just blissful content at being able to......HA!  AND THEN I WAKE UP!  Yeah, we have to remind our children that chores still come around every week, and, no it hasn't changed days of the week or time of the year this week.  Clothes need to be washed, floors to be swept and scrubbed, bathrooms to be cleaned (and yes-you need to scrub that toothpaste off the back of the door-again).  Once the chores begin, however, everyone does seem to settle into a rhythm of their own.  One hops up out of bed in the morning and hurries to get things done so he can play.  Another procrastinates all-day-long.  At some point, when the REAL work is beginning, we will eventually hear the swooning-tweenager sounds of Justin Bieber.  (Yes, I know ALL the songs and most of the words, thank you very much.  I even serenaded my husband with one once.....but I digress).  Eventually we will move outside to do some coop-scoopin'.  I actually enjoy picking up their run, spreading out some fresh cut grass and fixing up their house.  They even get some fresh mints, herbs, and spent nasturtium flowers from the garden in their coop and nest box when we are done.  I feel it's the least I can do for the ones who make me breakfast every morning!  I feel (almost) guilty at times since chickens are so easy to take care of.  I feel that they give me way more in return for the simple things I do for them.                                  

In addition to chores this weekend, I ventured into a realm that has never been ventured-into before in my life story....canning!  I had such a huge crop of tomatoes this year, that I was able to harvest 13 pounds of green tomatoes alone!  I have another 10+ waiting to be canned for salsa next weekend!  And all of that from just TWO tomato plants!  I learned a lot of tips this season about canning.  In fact, I saw this recipe for Green Tomato Relish from Green Circle Grove.  I never even knew green tomatoes had a purpose (thank you so much for sharing your awesome recipe Meredith)!  I love sweet relish and wanted to give canning a try.  I found that Green Tomato Relish is also called Piccalilli.  There are several different types you can make, but most are basically the Western interpretation of Indian Pickles; in short, it's pickled vegetables with spices.
I found different variations of the recipe in many places throughout the Internet, but I settled on this one from Cooks.com (and I added my comments from what I experienced with it along the way):



Pot full of Piccalilli ready to cook

Piccalilli/ Green Tomato Relish               


11 lbs green tomatoes, chopped

4-5 green tart apples, chopped
4-5 onions, peeled and chopped
1 large green pepper, seeded and chopped
3 1/2 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
4 celery stalks (with leaves), chopped
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
2 tablespoons whole mixed pickling spice
1 cup water
1/2 cup canning salt

  1. Salt the chopped tomatoes, wrap in a cheesecloth or cloth sack and let the juices drain out overnight (I used cheesecloth from the store draped across a colander-dumped and bundled the chopped/salted tomatoes into it and let it drain overnight in the sink). 
  2. Place the tomatoes in a large stockpot in the morning, add onions, celery, green pepper, sugars, apples, vinegar and water.  Then stir in the pickling spices.  Cook over low heat, stirring often, about 2-3 hours until vegetables begin to stick to the bottom and water is gone (I brought the mixture to a simmer and it took about 4 hours for the water to evaporate AFTER it came to a simmer--longer cooking time could have been the altitude?).  

Before the mixture is done cooking have the following ready:  


"Jar Grabber"
From top: Lid Seal and 2 Lid Rings
  • 7-9 pint size jars (my mixture took 8).  Wash the jars and lid rings ahead of time in the dishwasher or with hot soapy water.  Do NOT put the seal tops in the dishwasher-this will ruin them!  
  • Put only the jars into a separate pot that has simmering water enough to cover them by about an inch-this will keep the jars warm so they won't crack when you put your hot food into them in a bit.
  • Seal tops: Have another small/shallow pan on the stove with not-quite simmering water.  Place your seal tops in the hot water 10 minutes before you are ready to use them.  This will prepare the wax sealant that is on them.
  • Jar grabber (most likely NOT the official term for this tool):  This is a must have for canning.  You need this to grab the cans out after they have been in boiling water.
  • A large stockpot with canning rack.

THE PROCESS USING WATER BATH CANNING METHOD:

  • Once your Piccalilli is done cooking (enjoy the free, amazing smells while it does), take a jar out of the simmering water and fill it with the relish, leaving 1/2" of head space (the space left from the top of the jar down to the food level).  There are handy canning-measuring tools for this that are typically available at the grocery stores that I found very useful.  
  • Take a non-metallic tool to slide along the inside of the jar to remove any air bubbles (metal could crack the hot jar).  If you skip this process your jars may not seal right.
  • Take a paper towel or cloth and wipe the top rim of the jar clean (again, to provide the proper seal).
  • Take some tongs and remove a lid seal out of the shallow pan and place directly on top of the jar.
  • HAND TIGHTEN the lid on.  If you over tighten the lid it will not allow air to escape during the processing and your jars will not seal.
  • Place the Jar into a canning rack (mine looked like a metal vegetable steamer basket). 
  • Complete this process for all of your jars.  Make sure that jars do not touch each other in the water bath.  
  • Make sure that your jars are covered with about 2" of water.  If you need to add more, use hot water so you don't risk cracking the jars.
  • Bring the water for your stockpot water bath to a rolling boil.  Start the timer once it gets to this point and process for 10 minutes.  
  • Remove each jar with your Jar Grabber and place them on a cooling rack covered with a towel (this keeps the jar from coming in contact with surfaces that might be too cold, etc and cause your jars to crack).  
  • Listen for the PING!  Allow the jars to cool for 20 minutes before testing for a seal.  You can gently push on the top of the lid to see if it has sealed.  If there seems to be some give or you can push that lid down, it did not seal and you will need to refrigerate it and use within 2-3 weeks (depending on what it is).  
  • If your seal is good, allow the jars to cool completely for 12-24 hours and store in the pantry for up to 1 year.


I must admit the sweet victory I felt when I heard all 8 jars PING one after the other.  Oh yeah! The air-fist-pump was in full action that night!  



We just had this flavorful sweet relish on Hamburgers with sauteed mushrooms tonight and it was DELICIOUS!  It tasted like gourmet burgers Fresh From Home ;-)



If a first-timer-brown-thumb-clumsy-country-bumpkin-in-the-city can can, you can too!  You'll have to just trust me on that one.

P.S.  If you are family, please be surprised when you get something like the above pictured item for your Birthday and/or Thanksgiving and/or Christmas!


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