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 šŸ™‚

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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?

Dilly (and Basil!) Beans

The beans are coming in hot, so I was perusing my PNW 355 publication on pickling to check out their recipe for dilly beans. I was kind of surprised to seeĀ “fresh dill or basil sprigs” in the ingredients. Dilly beans made with basil?! Well consider me intrigued. So I went out and picked some basil from the garden to test this out. In some jars I put basil, in some I put dill, and in some I put both. We’re living on the edge here people! I’ll let ya know how the basil taste in a couple weeks, the dill I know is good!

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Ingredients (for about 8 pints):
4 lbs Beans (about a half pound per pint)
4 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
1/2 cup pickling/canning salt
4 cups water
8-16 fresh sprigs of dill or basil
8 cloves garlic
1 tsp of hot red pepper flakes (if you want)

Beautiful fresh dill and basil.

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OneĀ thing that I love about this recipe is that it is a raw pack. For the recipe in Ball, youĀ make the brine, and then you toss the beans into the brine for a bit and hot pack the jars. ThisĀ is fine if you want to do it that way, but I find it really hard to pack my jars nicely with a hot pack. And I don’t see a need to soften beans either. Anyway, place some basil and/or dill in each jar, along with the garlic. What I typically do is hold a jar sized bean in my hand (you need a half inch head space) and snap my beans to match the reference one. Then I pack the nice perfect ones into jars (the bottom ones below) and the “nubbin bits” go into another jar. The nubbin ones are good for snacking on or for salads, but the whole ones are nice to have also for drinks and things, so it works great to make both.

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Once all your jars are packed, make the brine by combining the water, vinegar and salt in a saucepan and bringing it to a boil. I like to make it after I fill the jars so I can see how many jars I haveĀ and make more brine if I need to. If you want a spicy bean, you can add the red pepper flakes to the brine, or you can just add the flakes to the jar. I added them to the jar in this case because I wanted to make some of them hotter than others to decide what I likeĀ best, because last time I made these I wanted them hotter. Fill your jars with brine, use a plastic or wooden utensil to remove any trapped air bubbles from between the beans, adjust brine to a half inch head space, wipe the rims and apply the lids and bands. Tighten finger tip tight and place the jars in the canner.

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Process in a boiling water bath canner, covered by at least 1-2 inches of water for 10 minutes. The publication actually lists 5, but I have never seen that before except for jams and jellies, and your stuff should all be sanitized if you do that short of a time, so I did 10 minutes just to be safe. After 10 minutes is up, turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove the jars to a hot pad or towel. Cool 12-24 hours, remove bands, wipe, label and store. Let them pickle for a little while before digging in!

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Master Food Preserver Class – Week 3

Week three of Master Food Preserver Class was all about preserving low acid foods. Which means pressure canning! A lot of people are scared of pressure canning, and there are a few things that I think you should have a healthy fear ofĀ  – like botulism, but done correctly there is no reason to be afraid of pressure canning. Your pressure canner is not going to explode or anything like that. Even if you accidentally over pressurized it, there is a little safety value that pops off. So ya, you could have a mess on your ceiling, but that’s also only if you really aren’t paying attention. So, I am here to give you some facts about canning, and hopefully dispel some of the pressure canning jitters.

A pressure canner is mandatory if you want to can anything with a pH of 4.6 or above. These low acid foods include any vegetables, meats and combo foods like soups. To toss in some pictures, here is my very first canning project – green beans!

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When picking a pressure canner, there are a couple things to consider. For one, to safely heat the food, a pressure canner must be large enough to hold 4 quart jars minimum. Most are designed for 7 quarts, and the taller ones can fit two layers of pints. The one below is mine, a 23-quart presto. There are two types of pressure canners: weighted gauge and dial guage (dial pictured below). Dial gauges need to be tested every year for accuracy, and the dial replaced if it is off by more than two psi. Usually they stay accurate a long time unless they are bumped, or dropped or something, but you definitely want to check it every year. Your local extension office should be able to do it for you! Dial gauge canners never need to be tested, but only do 5, 10 and 15 psi, so if you need to adjust for altitude, you have to use the 15psi weight. I prefer the dial gauge just because I am a very visual person and like to be able to see that I am at the correct pressure. Some weighted gauge ones also have a dial though. With the weighted gauge you just listen for it venting every 15-20 seconds.

OK, so why do we need pressure canners anyways? Why can’t we just hot water bath can everything? The answer to this is basically one bacteria – Clostridium botulinum, which is the bacteria that produces the botulism toxin, causing severe neurological illness. C. botulinum thrives at pH 4.6-7.0, which is why anything with a pH above 4.6 must be pressure canned (for extra safety most recipes are desgined with 4.2 as the goal). Ideal growing conditions for C. botulinum are anaerobic conditions (without air), moist conditions, around room temperature, with the pH 4.6-7. These are the exact conditions created in a canning jar. However, there is a way to kill C. botulinum, and that is by bringing it to a temperature of 240 F and holding it there for a set amount of time. This cannot be achieved in a boiling water bath – water boils at 212 F.

Other facts about pressure canning:
– When pressure canning (actually any canning) follow safe, approved recipes, like from Ball, So Easy to Preserve, or the National Center for Home Food Preservation website
– Canning times differ for different products due to their texture, density and pH
– Canning at sea level is at 11 psi. Always adjust for your altitude.
– If your canner ever drops below 11 psi while canning, return to pressure and start the time over
– Don’t skip the 10 minute vent time. This vents cold air from the canner to ensure proper processing.
– Pack the jars as listed in the recipe. For example, use appropriate head space. Also, for soups you need to fill half with solids (no more) and top off with liquid.
– Never try to force a canner to cool, just let it cool naturally at room temperature until the safety plug drops. At that point, remove the weight, wait 10 more minutes, then it can be emptied.

OK, and on too the fun pictures. We did beans in class (two types) and a spicy tomato veggie soup. So delish. I’ll update this post with links to the recipes once I post them.

White beans ready to be heated.

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Spooning the rehydrated beans into jars.

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Small red beans.

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With bacon!!

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Most pressure canned items need 1 or 1.5 inch head space. This is below the bottom of the threading by a good centimetre.

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Beans in syrup with bacon!

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My group worked on the spicy tomato soup. SO GOOD! I need to make a giant batch of this when tomato season hits!

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Half full of solids first, then you top off with liquid.

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Eating the leftovers.

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Sorry to taunt you with these pictures and not the full details, but the recipes are coming soon!

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