Thursday, July 25, 2013

Old German

Well, the last tomato plant is giving us all its tomatoes almost all at once.
The Old German is spectacular ! The tomatoes, most of them, are large...about 16 oz ea. Yup, most, some are smaller, but they are all large and so much so that the pole it was tied to, was not longer a support, it literally slid down the pole with the weight of the tomatoes.
This is an heirloom tomato, complete with wrinkles, odd shapes and oh it's flavor!

As you can see, it is a yellow and orange stripey tomato.....
And yes, the stripes go through......
Yes, it has the heirloom shape that makes it hard to cut, but, the flavor is sweet, really sweet and juicy, and it has less acid than some hybrid types, but not so much less that it loses yumminess.
This was the first year we grew this variety, so it is a novelty to us.
We purchased the started plant from Roger's Gardens in Newport Beach, where we have been buying our started plants for about 5 years. the plants from there come from growers all over, but are of excellent health and condition. We used to buy seed and start them ourselves, but we have a suburban backyard and there isn't enough room for all the plants, and so many people around here don't really garden that many plants ended up in the trash!
So, there you have it, an unqualified thought on the Old German tomato.
Will we grow it again? Yes, absolutely, if we can get again. And next time it will get an proper support.
Have a great day.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Tomato Sauce

My daughter and I made some tomato sauce, that we put in jars and froze. There was really enough to get the big kettle out and do canning, and frankly the cupboard is full as is now, our freezer. Who knew that with 8 tomato plants we would get so many tomatoes? Many have been cut and frozen. But this once we wanted to make tomato sauce.
Here I am cutting up the tomatoes. We didn't need to do much more than chop.
And Chop!
Then we cooked up some onions and garlic, and added the tomatoes.....
And then added homegrown basil and oregano.
And then when they were soft and cooked through, we put them through our food mill....
And here is our sauce, simmering along.
Now, because these were not Roma or other paste tomatoes, we needed to cook them down quite a bit. But in any case, "waste not, want not", right?
So, there were two and a half quarts of tomato sauce put in the freezer. And yes, I remembered to leave quite a bit of head room for expansion of the sauce! I didn't once, and it broke all over the freezer....not pretty at all.
Have a great day!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Nancy and the Beanstalk

Not too terribly long ago, my Hubby and I bought "King Beans" from a vendor at the Irvine Farmer's Market. It was a small bag, with about 20 beans in it. It cost a whole $5. We thought what kind of bean costs so much money? Curiosity won out over the cost, and we took our treasure home.
King Beans are a type of broad bean, and these had been shelled, so all we had were these shelled fresh beans.
Now, anyone who really knows me, knows that curiosity drives me further, and I took out 5 beans and planted them right there and then.
Slugs and snails ate 4 of the plants that came up....and one survived and grew, and grew and grew.
Now we know what kind of magic beans that Jack bought, they were King Beans!
Imagine what would happen if you had a handful and planted them!

If it were able to climb something this would easily be 14 ft tall....I actually had to add a stake to the inside of the trellis that it started on, and it still isn't enough!
The bean pods that it is setting are an average of 6" long and 2 1/2-3" wide, and the beans inside are slowly forming. This plant will take all summer and into the fall to set its beans.

And here is the main stalk, at almost 2" thick, imagine a handful of these!
Have you ever grown a King Bean?? Let me know....

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bread and Butter Pickles

It finally happened! I have been trying, most unsuccessfully, to raise enough cucumbers to make bread and butter pickles. I know, you are wondering what the big deal is. Well, I have always had to buy my cucumbers to pickle with. They just never really were successful, I would get one here and one there.
This year I purchased a Japanese cucumber plant that has cukes that are 10-12" long. However, what amazed me is this plant not only grows long cukes, but many. Yup, it finally happened.  Along with a couple of actual pickling cukes from another plant, I had enough to make bread and butter pickles!
There is nothing more satisfying than being able to go out, harvest a crop and turn it into something.

These cukes, are long and much more spiny than the other cukes I have grown, however, they are far more productive than any other variety I have tried for the last 23 years.
Here they are all cut, sliced, and in the pot. The recipe comes from the Ball canning book. I didn't have any pix of them in their salted and sitting stage.....
Here they are, 4 quarts of bread and butter pickles. No it isn't much, but to us, it is amazing and wonderful!
This is my new Weck canning jar. I have been wanting one for years, in fact some day I might. However, we didn't do a full "canning" on this project (hence the plastic white lids) because they just went into the fridge. These get eaten so fast with our family, it didn't make much sense to do a canning. So, we just cooled them and put them in the fridge.
Has anyone canned with Weck jars? I would love to hear about it.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Almost Good As New

If you have been reading the blog, you know what happens when you spray Lysol on Oil Rubbed Bronze door handles. Yeah, not pretty. And, a very expensive mistake...or at least it can be.
Behold....(as a reminder)

It basically just takes the finish off!
So, I asked you readers what I should use to fix it, not wanting of course to take the set off and take it to a refinisher who would charge upwards of $300 to fix it.....
So, One wonderful reader mentioned, Rub n Buff.....
That was an "Ah ha" moment.....
Except that around here, Rub n Buff seems to only come in gold, brass and patina....not what I was looking for.......
So, I went online and happily I found, Rub n Buff comes in a multitude of colors! Now, they don't have Oil Rubbed Bronze (that's too easy), but they had Ebony (black) which most closely resembles our Bronze color, as it is the darker one.....
So, I experimented on an inside door handle that was very brassy....
And although I am not going to show you the picture, because it is not good enough, take it from me, it is possible to change the color of your doorknobs and handles with this stuff!
So, tentatively, I went to the front door and tried a bit on it.
Ta Da!!

Almost good as new! Well, almost....It isn't perfect, but it is so much better!
Cost? $4 with shipping! Yeah, and Amazon wanted $7 plus shipping! Yeah, so first don't do what I did and spray Lysol or other cleaning agents on good, expensive door sets...and second, if you did mess it up, check with Rub n Buff.....they have a variety of metal colors, you could fix it or change it.
Not bad.....
Have a great weekend, I am going to make Bread n Butter pickles with my daughter.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Keeping up with the tomatoes

We have all had it happen, the tomatoes all ripen at the same time. And, sometime, the tomatoes have that ugly "blossom end rot".  Well, I harvested another basket of tomatoes, probably about 6-7 pounds worth. Not wanting to waste anything, I set about making Tomato Jam.
Yes, I know, sounds awful. But really, you don't put this on toast. You use it as a condiment. More like catsup (or ketchup) however you spell or pronounce it, it is yummy! Around here we use it in place of salsa! So, since I knew I wasn't going to can it, just pop it in the fridge, I thought, why not??

So, there are many recipes for tomato jam out there. And, of course, I lost the copy I had of the one I adored from last year! So, I went looking for one that was similar.....
This one, from Delectable Musings, was close to what I remembered, so that is the "guide" I used. Her recipe called for brown and white sugar, the one I had before didn't, so I just used white sugar. Also, her recipe called for Roma tomatoes, I had a variety of there is more water in these, just makes for a longer cooking time, roughly 90+ minutes.
I used the food processor to pulse the tomatoes, I don't like lots of chunks, hers was more like a chutney, mine more like catsup. This is the tomatoes with all the ingredients boiling away....I reduced it and watched over it the whole time, stirring frequently. This can get away with you and burn, so play with the temp so that it simmers so that you can just about stir it down, but not quite.... Last year I did a batch and left the room for three minutes, and it burned, so watch it.
After 95+ minutes of stirring and stirring my brew, it got jammy ( a small amount on a cool dish got firm). Roughly 5 pounds of tomatoes, turned into 1 quart and a pint. Not much to can, but perfect in the fridge. This will last about a week or so. Yummmmm
Have you ever tried Tomato Jam? Do you have a favorite recipe??
Hope to hear from you....

Monday, July 1, 2013

Harvest is hard (but fun) work

As I told you, the zucchini was being, well, abundant....
So, my daughter and I made Zucchini relish and zucchini bread. Yippeee!
It started last night when I chopped the zucchini and onion, sprinkled them with salt and stirred and then stuck it in the fridge overnight.
Then, my daughter came and we pulled together the rest of the ingredients. We then cooked that all up and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. When the canning kettle was up to speed and the jars had been boiled for 10 minutes, we then loaded up the jars.
Now, if you are interested, the recipe is in the Ball Canning Book and the how to is in there too.
Because it is a "pickle" type of recipe it doesn't require a pressure cooker. Sweet!

In the past, zucchini relish is actually better than cucumber relish, but a lot depends on the crop too. So we will see. My family looks forward to this canning as well as bread and butter pickles. So far, only the zucchini is producing in abundance.
We also made zucchini bread, with a twist!
My daughter has been quite the baker lately, never afraid to try and make a recipe better. So, she uses zucchini, carrot and apple in her recipe as well as using brown sugar for half the white sugar.
You know what? It is fabulous! Zucchini bread is good, this is just plain superior!

Her recipe, doubled to use the zucchini we had, made three loaves and six mini bundt muffins. Absoulutely, yummmmy!
After, when the bread was cooling and relish was also cooling, we went out and harvested beets, lemons, tomatoes and herbs. All in all, a very busy day. Quite successful. She will be taking part of the harvest back to the other part of the family as well as enough zucchini bread for a few days.
Hope yours was a great day.