Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
Send stories and pictures of your horticultural adventures to email@example.com.
Friday, September 10, 2010
We have a favorite fruit stand where we buy sweet corn and jalapeños mostly. Last week my husband stopped by this fruit stand and bought a box of jalapeños and six mega-green peppers plus onions and a large red pepper!
See, last year we’d made our standard bread and butter pickles from cucumbers from our garden—plus many white onions from the grocery store and lots of Heinz white vinegar, sugar, garlic cloves, pickling salt, and three spices—just a heads up, we bought whole mustard seed by multiple boxes—and sometimes had to visit more than one store to find it in pickling season!
Well, I digress. The point is supposed to be that last year we overestimated how much of the brine we’d need for the cucumbers on hand, so we ended up with quite a bit extra. So, we decided to make up a recipe. We chose to slice green peppers, red and orange peppers, white onion, and jalapeños and pickle them using the bread-and-butter-pickle recipe.
Last year we had perhaps 20% jalapeño in the mix. The Spicy Relish was attractive due to the variety of colors, and on a scale of 1 to 10 for heat, probably a 2. It was popular—we ran out of last year’s supply last month.
Look at the number of jalapeños we used this year!
And aren’t the vegetables beautiful?!
We canned 36 pints of Spicy Relish (in addition to more pickles from our garden’s bounty)! My husband sliced 268 jalapeños!! He diced the six mega-green peppers. I think I used 2 ½ boxes of the mustard seed.
This year the first batch of 24 jars was 60% jalapenos. Ooh-la-la!! He loves it! I do too, but user smaller quantities!! On a hotness scale, it’s a 6. To the last batch of 12 pints I added additional colored peppers and onions, partly for the additional color, but also for toning down the hotness. It’s a hotness of a 4 or so. When we labeled the jar lids, we labeled the hotness scale number too. And we intend to enjoy peppers all winter long!
By Carol Clark
Thursday, September 9, 2010
I woke up early Sunday with a plan. Go to church...buy peaches...can peaches. As church started it was announced there was a truckload of free peaches in the parking lot - FREE PEACHES. An orchard had someone order a truckload of peaches and not pick them up. They were ripe and ready for canning. I looked around, - no mass exodus. It was safe to be polite and practice patience. Anxiously, I waited for the service to be over and wished we had sat near the back of the room. It's a youngest child thing... always getting the leftovers!
Not wanting to look like the glutton I am, I took only one box, but a sweet man who overheard me say I was canning grabbed another and put it in my trunk. I didn't protest.
The rest of the day was full of peaches - 18 quarts peaches in ultra-light syrup and seven small jars of Peach Rum Sauce, (sinful, I know).
So, thanks to the good orchard grower for sharing, and thanks to the Good Lord for providing a bountifully stocked pantry.
"..put your hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment."
As penance I am giving you the Peach Rum Sauce recipe. It is not as good as fresh peaches on your ice cream but I think it will taste like heaven in the dead of winter.
Peach Rum Sauce
from "The Complete Book of Home Preserving" by Ball
Makes seven 8-ounce jars.
6 cups pitted peaches, treated to prevent browning and drained
2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup rum
1 tsp grated lemon zest
Prepare canning jars and lids. In large stainless steel saucepan, combine peaches, brown sugar, granulated sugar, rum and lemon zest. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes.
Ladle hot sauce into jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Remove air bubbles and adjust head space. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.
Serve warm over ice cream or other desserts.
By Laurena Mayne Davis
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Creatures great and small
We’ve had our share of interesting winged visitors to home, lawn and garden lately.
Some have been helpful, such as this praying mantis, who patrols planters by our front door and hunts in nearby potted basil:
Some have needed help, such as this frightened hummingbird, which became trapped in a garage and was freed by my husband, Scott:
Others have been puzzling, such as this giant, nocturnal beetle, whose size we tried to indicate in the photo by tossing a quarter near him/her. Note to self: Giant beetles don’t like having coins heaved in their direction. You should have seen how quickly we back-pedalled:
Thanks to Google and Larry Robinson, co-owner of Mount Garfield Greenhouse, we’ve determined that this nearly 2-inch beetle is a wood-borer. We found it near our wood pile, so I’d like to believe it was feasting on dead wood and not our live trees. Did you know that an estimated quarter of the world’s animals are beetles? If they ever decide to join forces, we’re in trouble.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
In years’ past, I’ve always purchased flats of petunias, snapdragons, mossflowers or anything else that catches my eye to plant in my flowerpots on the back deck. This year, I planted flowers from seed, as part of my insistence on frugal gardening. I bought a packet of giant zinnia seeds from Bookcliff Gardens, even though I’ve never been a flower gardener and couldn’t have told you what a zinnia looked like.
I love the way they look in my flowerpots. Very bright, summery and huge, which is good because some of the other flower seeds I planted didn’t come up.
Even better, they’ve attracted visitors:
The hummingbirds visit throughout the day, giving us something to watch out our kitchen window. I think I like it better than a hummingbird feeder.
One last thought about hummingbirds. I interviewed someone from the Audubon Society for a story a month or two ago, and just because I was curious and figured she'd know the answer, I asked her where my backyard hummingbirds go in the winter. She said most of them go to Central America. Whew! No wonder they spend the entire summer sipping zinnia juice from my flowers. That's a lot of flapping for such itty bitty wings.
By Penny Stine
Saturday, September 4, 2010
A garden is like an experiment that never ends, which is one of the reasons I’ve come to love gardening. Every year, I try to plant something new or improve something I tried without huge success.
This year, I was determined to improve my tomatillos. I planted them last year for the first time and liked them well enough to try again this year. Last year, my biggest mistake was overcrowding, so I spaced the plants much farther apart.
This year, my biggest issue is still overcrowding, but that’s because tomatillos are hogs. They refuse to stay in the area they’ve been allotted and are threatening to overtake everything in their path. I think they’re the hurricane of the garden.
I planted Cisneros tomatillos, which are supposed to be huge, and purple tomatillos, which are supposed to be purple. The purple tomatillos sprouted earlier and seemed hardier at first, but once they were both transplanted in the garden, the two seemed to grow at an equal pace.
The Cisneros tomatillos are much bigger and the plants are just as prolific as the purple ones. A few of the purple tomatillos are purple, but most of them are green. I confess to being an impatient gardener and I may be picking them before they’re fully ripe, but the husk gets dry and splits, which is usually a sign that it’s time to pick.
My goal with planting so many tomatillos was to have enough to make green salsa. Last weekend, I picked a colander full of tomatillos and started chopping.
I also had peaches from my favorite orchard in Palisade, so I found several tomatillo recipes and chose not to follow any of them, since none included peaches as an ingredient.
But here’s what I did:
Peachy tomatillo salsa
7 – 8 cups quartered or halved tomatillos
1 large chopped onion
3 large chopped peaches
4 – 5 cloves minced garlic
2 jalapenos, diced
1 finely diced habanero (I used 1 tsp of frozen diced habanero from last summer’s habaneros, since my habanero isn’t producing yet this year)
1 cup lemon juice
zest and juice of 1 large lime
1 tsp salt
Put everything but the lime in a large pot and cook for 20 – 30 minutes until the tomatillos are saucy. Add the lime juice right before pouring the salsa into hot, sterilized jars. Process in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes.
Note: Our friends at the Extension office say to always use a tested and approved recipe for salsa if you’re not going to pressure can it. This recipe is not tested or approved. (Although I did bring a jar of it into the Sentinel, where many willing folks both tested and approved the taste.)
Before I made the salsa, I consulted several tomatillo salsa recipes from various extension offices across the country and noted that the ratios of vegetables (peppers and onions) to acidic ingredients like the tomatillos. I increased the amount of tomatillos, added the peaches (which are also acidic), increased the acidity by adding the lime and decreased the amount of vegetables by substituting a very small amount of habanero for a larger amount of green chiles. It’s still not tested and approved, but I did my best to make it safe.