July Garden Tour

We’ve been having nearly 100 degree heat the past week or so and the garden is love love loving it. Here’s a little tour! It’s amazing how much has changed since my June 1 garden tour.

Tomatoes loving the heat.

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Broccoli. Wishing I got it in earlier because this heat’s not doing it any favours.

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The first few roma VF tomatoes.

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Pepper experiment is looking awesome! They are also loving the heat. So far I’d say no differences between the pepper sizes, however they are about to that size where the competition within a pot of multiple peppers might be starting to matter. Soon we’ll have peppers coming out our ears!

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The first bell pepper.

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The first jalapeno.

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More tomatoes. I am really making an effort to prune this year and keep them better guided into their cages than in previous years. I think it’s going well.

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The whole yard. I think I do pretty well with the little space I have :)

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Pretty purple pole beans.

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Purple!!

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Climb climb climb.

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More tomatoes, basil, and calendula.

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The chaos of a calendula, tomatoes that grew from seed on their own, and some dill that also grew on it’s own.

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Brandywine tomato.

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Carrots and cucs.

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The cucumbers are also loving this heat. I planted the exact same cucumbers as the last two years, like from the same exact seed packet, and the leaves of these plants are HUGE compared to last year. It’s going to be a gooooood cuc year.

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Babies!

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Massive zuch!

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Beets that really need to be eaten.

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Indigo rose tomatoes.

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Peas are dying, so I’m going to pull them shortly and plant some more beans. I’m definitely doing a better jobs at succession planting this year too.

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And that’s all folks! Having a good garden year?

Blackberry Cabernet Jam

Last weekend after picking a ton of blackberries I was thinking about what delicious blackberry creation I could come up with, and was reminded of the strawberry Pinot Noir jam that I made two summers ago. Blackberries and wine? Yes please! That sounds like a great idea. Blackberries are bold though, I thought to myself, they need a bolder wine, thus was born the blackberry Cabernet jam. This jam is a real time commitment, as it is pectin free, and has an entire bottle of wine in it. However, if you’re feeling slightly more impatient the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving does have a berry wine jelly using liquid pectin that you could whip up faster. Alternatively, make a half batch and drink the other half of the wine.

Ingredients:
15 cups blackberries
2.5 cups sugar
One bottle of your favourite Cabernet Sauvignon or other bold wine
1 tbsp of lemon juice

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Here’s what I did:

Prepare the canner, jars, and lids (and by prepare I really mean start pondering it, because you actually won’t need to prepare for like 4 more hours). Depending on how long you cook this jam, it will yield about 6-8 pints. Mash the berries to your preferred level of mashiness in a large pot, and add the sugar, wine, and lemon juice. Leave a small amount of wine in the bottom of the bottle to sip on while you bring the jam to a boil.

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Bring to a boil over medium/high heat. Reduce and maintain a gentle boil for a good many hours, stirring occasionally. I think I ended up cooking this for nearly 5 hours. Be patient, or play with adding some liquid pectin of you want a firmer set. Near the end of the cook time, pay close attention to avoid any burning on the bottom of the pot.

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Fill hot jars leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe rims, apply lids, and tighten bands finger tip tight. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.

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Deeeeelicious. And oh so pretty. Now who wants to host a cocktail party or wine night so that I can bring some of this jam? ;)

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Boozy Infusions and a Homemade Strawberry Daiquiri

If you enjoy the occasional cocktail, as I do, a great way to improve a cheap bottle of vodka (or I bet this would be good with gin too) is to infuse the vodka with your favourite berry or fruit. It’s so simple, and so delicious. All you need to do is fill a jar about 3/4 full with the fruit of your choice, and cover with vodka. If you like, you can first add a bit of sugar to the fruit, shake the jar to cover the fruit, let sit a few minutes, and then add the vodka. I did this only with the rhubarb, because it helps draw the moisture out of the rhubarb a bit more. Most berries are plenty sweet and give up their juices easily, so in my opinion don’t need the added sugar.

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Close the jars, give them a shake, and wait. The strawberry and raspberry that I made actually tasted pretty good after only a few days, but I’d leave rhubarb a bit longer. I left them all a couple of weeks before straining. Occasionally, when you pass them and think of it, give the jar a shake.

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Gorgeous!

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Taste it every few days, or just leave it for a couple weeks. After the taste of the vodka meets your satisfaction, strain the fruit through cheesecloth or or a coffee filter.

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Straining the rhubarb vodka.

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A few weeks later, host a delightful cocktail party! ;) Mix with tonic water and enjoy.

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With the vodka soaked strawberries I decided to make a homemade daiquiri. All I did was combine the berries with about 8 ice cubes, a splash of lime juice, and a tiny bit of sugar and blended it up in the blender. Oh man. So good. I could probably use the blueberries for something delicious too, but the rhubarb I’m not sure. Add it to a pie?

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Infuse your booze!

A “berry” good weekend – things to do with strawberries

Believe it or not, strawberry season is wrapping up here next week! So sad! However, I did do a pretty good job taking advantage of the berries this year. We bought a chest freezer, so I’ve frozen a bunch, and I did some dehydrating, canning, and wine making with the rest last weekend. A berry good weekend indeed. For many of you, berry season is probably just beginning, but whether this is your last week, or first, here is some inspiration for things to do with your berries.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling – my first blog post ever, and still one of my favourite recipes. The universe is telling us to put these two awesome items together by having them mature at the same time – you should really listen.

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Strawberry Fruit Leather – Since this post, I’ve learned adding some apple sauce or other more fibrous fruit helps with the cracking and crispiness issue. But I also still love it with just strawberries.

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Strawberry jam – a classic favourite of course. Or on the wilder side, add some wine to your jam and try this strawberry pinot noir jam.

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Strawberry wine – heck yes! It’s really not as hard as it seems by the length of the post. You should really really try it. Shorter, point form directions coming soon to entice you more, since not all of you have the attention span for this novel of a post.

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Or a non-alcoholic beverage  (or alcohol optional I should say) – strawberry lemonade concentrate!

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Got a couple handfuls left over still? Flavour some vinegar (or vodka? Post coming soon on that, but it’s basically the same as vinegar)

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Now go, quickly, before they are gone!! Pick some berries! Eat some berries! Can some berries! Dry some berries! Love the berries! And don’t forget to eat some fresh – sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in preservation.  And lay off the caffeine! (Oh wait, that one’s for me.)

June 1 Garden Tour

Wow – June already!? How time flies. The garden is all planted and I’m so ready for summer, so I thought I’d give you a little tour of this year’s garden. 14 tomato plants this year, which I am super excited about, but unfortunately since I plant so many I don’t really rotate my crops. Sigh – one day I’ll have some land and do this right! I think I do pretty well with the space I have though.

Up first – tomatoes of course. My first year starting from seed was an awesome success. I mulched around them with grass last time we cut the grass.

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More tomatoes and a ton of broccoli. Unfortunately I planted much later than I wanted for the broccoli, so hopefully it doesn’t bolt.

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Tomato, spinach, lettuce, beans and peas. And the gigantic parsley that survived the winter.

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Peas and beets.

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Lettuce and spinach in boxes. The lettuce seems much happier than the spinach.

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Peppers in pots! I am excited about this because I ended up turning it into an experiment. Yep, I’m a dork like that. I got pretty big (16″, 32 quarts of dirt) pots, and thought, “I wonder if I could grow multiple peppers in each pot and still get a good yield?” So being the dork I am, decided I’d grow 1, 2 or 3 peppers per pot and track the yield to find out. Stay tuned!!

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One pepper per pot – King if the North bell pepper and jalapeno.

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Three peppers per pot. Obviously going to be more crowded than recommended, but how will the yield compare to a pepper with its own pot?

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Carrots and cucs.

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Potato box.

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Self seeded tomatoes and dill woo woo.

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How’s your garden growing?

Applesauce Fruit Leather 

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This time of year, when canning season is just beginning, is a great time to inventory what you have left in your pantry from last season. In my inventory one thing I noticed that I still had a lot of was applesauce. I haven’t been cooking with it as much as I thought I would, and I just don’t eat it plain often either. I also had a couple flavoured applesauces that friends gave me, including a blackberry one and a cinnamon one (made with cinnamon candy I think).

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So, I decided to repurpose it as fruit leather. I really enjoyed snacking on strawberry fruit leather last summer in the field, so thought I’d free up some spaces in the pantry and dry a few jars of applesauce.

I spread the applesauce out on my fruit leather trays and dried it at 135 F in my dehydrator. 12 oz was about perfect for one tray; I needed to mix a little extra into the 8 oz jar to cover the whole tray.

Here’s the plain applesauce.

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Cinnamon applesauce.

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Blackberry applesauce.

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I love making this just before I go to bed, because it takes at least 8 hours with a full dehydrator.  It’s nice to just wake up and it’s almost done! After 8 – 10 hours you have fruit leather! The publication says 4-8 hours, but I’m thinking 4 must be with one tray, using their precooked method. You know it’s done when there are no wet spots and peels off but still it’s still slightly tacky. Maybe try it during the day for the first time, but I’ve got the timing down well in my dehydrator and can wake up and it’s done :)

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After it is dry, peel it off the trays. If you are having trouble getting it started, I find slipping a butter knife under works well.

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Roll it up and store! You can store a whole sheet, or cut it into smaller pieces. You can roll it up with plastic wrap so it doesn’t stick to itself, but I don’t really like using all that plastic wrap so I usually just deal with a few stuck together pieces.

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So beautiful! For more ideas check out the OSU extension publication linked to below.

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*this post contains affiliate links, please see the “About the Blogger” page for more information

Used for this project:
Nesco dehydrator
Extra trays
Applesauce
Fruit leather publication

Master Food Preserver Manual

I recently added a “resources” tab to my blog, to which I have been adding some of my favourite extension service publications, and products I love. In preparation for the upcoming preservation season, I had been thinking to myself, “how could I make this as useful and accessible to people as possible?” What I came up with was to provide you with all of the resources that are available in my Master Food Preserver notebook. When I started the MFP program last year, I got the notebook pictured below, which has a ton of different extension service publications complied into one handy (albeit giant) binder. So I wanted to make that virtually available to you in a well organized fashion, until I found out it is already available online! So exciting!! So if you are looking for basically all the publications that you need to safely prepare and preserve food safely at home click here. It’s all available free online on the OSU extension website – who knew! This is an amazing and FREE resource, check it out! The key was that it’s under faculty resources. All these publications are available online, but this is the first time I’ve seen them all organized together. Of course the tips for volunteers section isn’t important for you, but the rest of the chapters are nicely laid out and accessible. Enjoy, and happy preserving! 

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Do you refer to extension service publications? What’s your go-to source for recipes and instructions?