Saturday, August 30, 2014

Concord Grape Jelly

This was my first year of getting a substantial grape harvest. I had to beat the birds to my grapes, but I won. I actually wrapped the grapes in tulle to discourage the birds.  This year I focused on jelly and hopefully next year I will be better prepared for the battle of the birds and get enough to make juice.  

Juicing Grapes and Other Soft Fruits

1.  Wash the grapes and stem them.

2.  As you stem them put them in a quart measuring cup.  With each quart of fruit you will need to add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of water to a sauce pan.

3.  Bring fruit to a boil, turn it down and let it simmer. As the fruit softens mash with a potato masher.

4. Strain the softened fruit through a dampened jelly bag or through a Victorio Sauce Maker and let the juice drain into a bowl

5.  I put this juice in a half gallon jar and let it set overnight in the refrigerator.  Grape juice has a lot of sediment that you don't want in your jelly.  It will make it look cloudy.

6.  The next day in a large measuring bowl put food grade cheese cloth over the top and hold it in place with a rubber band.  Without shaking or stirring contents of juice pour the juice through the cheesecloth.  You will need 4 cups of juice.  Do not pour out the sediment that settled to the bottom.

Making Concord Grape Jelly

4 cups of Concord grape juice
7 cups of sugar
1 pouch of liquid pectin

Mix the juice and sugar in a large saucepan.  Bring it to a boil and add the liquid pectin.  Return to a full rolling and boil for 1 minute.

Skim the foam off the top. There is a lot of foam with this jelly so do not double the recipe and use a large pot. Ladle jelly into hot sterile half pint jelly jars.  Adjust two piece caps.  Process in a water bath canner for 10 mins.  At 5000 ft add another 10 minutes.

When the time is up turn off the heat and remove the lid of the canner.  Wait another 10 minutes before removing jars from the canner.  Let them rest till cool on the counter.

This makes a beautiful, clear jelly that is so delicious.

 "Wish I hadn't Done That!" Wisdom

After the juice has settled for a day, do not use milking filters to strain the juice.  I tried this and it barely dripped through the filter. It would have taken days to filter. I recommend cheese cloth.

I would love to have you share any wisdom and tips you have learned to help us all out.

If you do a lot of canning, I recommend a stainless steel canner.  The bottom does not warp like an enamel canner.  If you don't can very often then an enamel canner will work just fine.  In purchasing a Sauce Maker, I would only buy one that attaches to the table with a clamp.  It seems more secure. 

I love my Victorio Canner!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Enjoying the August Blooms

Enjoy these beautiful summer evenings.  Each month of summer is unique with its own blooms and beauty.  I love sitting outside at the end of day after working hard and just relaxing.  I believe that is another perfectly acceptable way to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Tonight I'm enjoying some very beautiful flowers in my yard who are also very delighted with the weather.


This one is not quit in full bloom but still gorgeous.


This is a new shade landscape I'm working on.

More of the shade garden.

Lobelia, a small beauty

Found my cat lounging inside these.  She wasn't very happy when I watered her.

3 Great Recipes for Canning Corn!

My husband's worried that with our unusually cool evenings, our tomatoes won't ripen before it turns cold.  I'm just trying to get all the corn we have harvested processed.  I was appreciating not having an abundance of ripe tomatoes at the moment. And more canning chores.  Last week I froze corn and canned corn.  Tomorrow I will be making corn relish.  The rest of the corn will dry on the cob in the field and be used to grind into cornmeal. Good thing I'm finishing up the corn, because I did notice that there are a number of ripe tomatoes showing their color and ready to pick tomorrow.

Canning Sweet Corn

 Sweet corn is one of those crops you just don't run out of ways to use.  There's eating it fresh on the cob, cut off, or grilled. Try an herb butter to add variety.  Freezing corn o,n the cob or as whole kernel cut off the cob, is always an option. Freezing Corn on the Cob You can also can corn in a pressure caner.  That's the focus of this post.  I'll share 3 recipes that use corn.  Since corn is a low acid food it must be processed in a steam pressure canner.  This ensures that all the bacteria, any spores and toxin are destroyed. If you need more information on pressure canning check it here is a great link:

 Ball Fresh Preserving: Getting Started

Steps to Prepare Jars and Pressure Canner

1.  I wash the jars in the dishwasher.  These recipes are raw packed so you do not have to keep jars hot.  Raw packed means you will pack raw unheated product in the jars.

2.  Prepare your lids and rings.  I never reuse lids but once you have canned a product you can remove the rings and use them again.  Have the lids in a pan of water.  When you need them heat to almost boiling.  I turn the heat down when bubbles start to form.

3.  Prepare your pressure canner. Check the gasket, the safety value, and vent pipe on a weighted gauge canner.  The vent pipe should not be clogged.  Hold it up to daylight you should be able to see daylight through it.  Remove any residue if you need to.  If you have a dial gauge it needs to be checked each year for accuracy.  Normally this can be done at the extension office.  I HIGHLY recommend that you follow the directions for your canner exactly as the manufacturer prescribes.

4.   Add the recommended water to the canner and a little vinegar to prevent mineral build up.  Now you are ready to prepare the corn.

Steps To Prepare the Corn:

1. Start with freshly picked corn.  Husk the corn,  wash it, and remove as much of  the silk as possible.   I husk the corn outside and compost the husks. Try a silk removing brush they are inexpensive and handy to have.

2.  Using a sharp knife, cut the corn off the cob.  I like to do this in a shallow bowl or small cookie tray with sides to keep the kernels contained.  Be careful not to scrape the cob or else you'll end up with more of a cream style corn.

3.  Put the corn in a bowl and remove any small pieces of silk. Use the corn in either of these recipes.

Canned Corn

1.  Add 1/2 tsp of salt to each pint jar and 1 tsp to each quart size jar. 

2.  Fill jars. Loosely pack the corn leaving 1" headspace.  Do not pack corn tightly because it will expand  as it processes. Following the headspace recommendations, will result in less liquid seeping out during processing.  Keeping an even pressure will also help with that.

Pack jars loosely leaving 1" headspace

3. Ladle boiling water over the corn leaving a 1 inch headspace

4.  Use a rubber spatula to remove air bubbles

5.  Wipe rims and adjust two piece caps.

6.  Put the jars in the canner.  Be sure to read the instructions for safety and to ensure you get a good product.

8.  Process pints at 10 lbs of pressure for 55 minutes.  Process quarts at 1 hour and 25 minutes at 10 lbs of pressure.  If you are above 1000 feet then use 15 lbs of pressure. 

9.  When the time is completed, just turn off the heat.  Let the canner cool completely.  Do not remove the pressure weight or lids while still hot or even warm. 

 I have found it takes about two large ears to fill a pint size jar. Decide whether you want to can in pints or quarts.  If you mix them you have to process using the time recommended for the quart size so I don't recommend mixing jar sizes.


Canned Corn with Red Peppers and Basil

Follow the same instructions in preparing the corn.  Dice 3 medium red peppers.  I do this in a vegetable chopper.  It's absolutely one of my favorite kitchen gadgets.

 Mix the corn and red peppers together and fill pint size jars. Remember to loosely pack do not shake or press corn into the jars.  There must be 1 inch headspace.  Into each pint jar add 1/2 tsp of basil.  Ladle your hot water over the corn leaving a 1" headspace.  Remove air bubbles.  Adjust lids and load in the steam pressure canner.

Process 55 minutes at 10 lbs of pressure.  If you are above 1000 feet use 15 lbs of pressure.

Vegetable Soup

 This makes about 5-6 quarts

 6 cups chicken broth
6 cups chopped tomatoes
4 cups peeled potatoes
4 cups peeled carrots
3 cups whole kernel corn
4 cups of sliced celery
2 cups green beans sliced 1" long
1 1/2 cups of diced onions (use the vegetable chopper)
1 Tbs dried parsley
1 tsp dried thyme
1 large minced garlic clove
1/2 tsp black pepper

You can add a little more or less of a vegetable you like.  All these are from our garden.

Try to chop all vegetables in one inch chucks.  Combine all these ingredients and bring to a boil.  Ladle the hot soup into hot, clean jars.  Be sure to leave 1" headspace.  Remove air bubbles.  Wipe the rims and adjust the lids.

Process quart jars for 75 minutes at 10 lbs of pressure or 15 lbs of pressure if you live above 1000 ft elevation.

This soup is a great base.  You can add a jar of drained, canned chicken or pork and any additional spices you enjoy for a quick and easy winter meal.  You can leave out the potatoes when you can it and then add some cooked macaroni to it instead.  I unusually add a jar of my canned Italian tomatoes. You can add some peppers to spice it up. Enjoy!


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Tips for Controlling Slugs

Slugs come out at night and slither through your garden feasting on your fruits and vegetables.  My daughter called very upset that something was eating her tomatoes.  Her first garden and first harvests were being ravaged by slugs. Maybe not ravaged but who wants to share a tomato with a slug? This is photo of slug damage on tomatoes.

Slugs are a snail without the shell.  They rasp small holes in vegetables, fruits, and leaves of cabbage and greens.

There are several options to get rid of these pests.  You can go out at night and pick them off with chop sticks or tongs. Then put them in bucket of salt water.  If you are not that adventurous then set a trap.  Here are some options for bait.

1.  Make a cornmeal trap. Put a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar and lay it on its side.  The slugs will be attracted to the cornmeal, but the texture of the meal is too harsh and will kill them. Leave the jar out overnight and dispose of the slugs in the morning and rebait the trap.

2.   Use a fruit trap. Slugs are naturally attracted to fruits. Place a board or jar on its side out near where the slugs have been eating your plants, and put half of an orange or a few slices of cabbage (slug's favorite) or a sliced potato in the center. Leave the board or jar out overnight, and in the morning the slugs should be feasting on the food you left on the board.  Dispose of the slugs. 

3.  Try a honey and yeast trap. This is the same concept as the beer trap which slugs love.  Slugs are highly attracted to the combination of honey and yeast. Boil a cup of water with equal parts of honey and yeast and then allow the mixture to cool. Dig a hole in your garden near where the slugs are and bury a plastic sour cream or yogurt container up to the rim. Fill the container about an inch from the top.  In the morning you should have drowned slugs.

They also have natural predators of birds, toads, and ground beetles.  

Purchased Deterrents

1. Diatomaceous earth. This is often used to ward off various pests. It is made from crushed up fossilized sea shells. Follow the  directions on the product.  Pour the sharp dust around your garden beds. Keep in mind that this will only work when dry, and must be replaced if gotten wet.  This is not my recommended option because it is harmful if inhaled into your lungs.  But if you already have this then use it.

A better option in my opinion is iron phosphate pellets.

2.  Use iron phosphate pellets. These small slug-killing pellets can be found in garden centers; the slugs are attracted to them, but once consumed they  will cause death within a week.
  You can sprinkle these around your garden.  These also get rid of sowbugs and pillbugs. I used this in my strawberry beds for roly polys which where helping themselves to my berries.  I may have had some slugs in there also. Less than a week and no problems. 

The Summer Bounty

This August has been so beautiful.  It feels more like early fall than late summer.  My tomatoes aren't to thrilled about the cool evenings and are taking their time ripening but I'm sure enjoying it. My fall garden is enjoying also.

 These are today's harvest.  I'll be very busy canning and finding a few neighbors who would enjoy fresh produce.  If you're one of those neighbors give me a call.

 These are my harvests from Friday and Saturday.  I'll have plenty to do today.  Who said you can't grow anything organically?

These are my earliest apples. They are a Gala apple.  So my biggest problem is with birds.  I have talk radio playing during the day (I'm raising conservative apples) and I hung T-shirts in my apple trees hoping to  deter the birds. Last year I tried hanging CD's in the trees.  Does anyone have any other ideas?

 Yes, more summer squash.  I'm going to make candied zucchini this week.  It tastes like gummy worms.  I'll post the recipe later this week plus some of my favorite summer squash recipes.

 A few more beets. 
 I wrote a poem for those of you who have only had store bought strawberries.

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Strawberries are red,
ALL the way through!

When did we settle for white strawberries airbrushed red on the outside?    Homegrown strawberries are so much sweeter.  I like Ozark and Tristar.  Both are ever bearing.  In late summer the berries are very large and these keep on producing through the fall.  You also get an early spring crop but they are smaller.
 Concord grapes.  The birds have helped themselves to a few a these but did leave me some.  I will be making jelly.

 The white powder on the apples is kaolin clay which is sold as Surround Crop Protectant.  I use that with Spinosad and Neem Oil to control colding moth and other pests.  I plan on posting more about the organic orchard later this fall.  It can be done.

 These are Cosmic Purple and Red Cored Chutney carrots.  Both are heirlooms.  When you peel the purple carrots they are orange. 

This is Merlin.  He enjoys gardening with me.  I love these inexpensive baskets to clean root crops.  While outside I cut the tops off leaving 2" on the carrot.  The carrot goes in this basket and the tops in a compost container.  You can then easily rinse and drain these carrots with the hose or by submerging in a bigger bucket. Your carrots will store for months in the refrigerator if you place them in a ziploc bag and periodically rinse and drain them.

Elderberries.  I'm going to try that delicious recipe I posted on my FB page. 
I have two Elderberry bushes.  They are large, beautiful and extremely productive.  These birds love these over anything else and there will be plenty to share.  Elderberries are a great homestead crop because they can be used medicinally and to make juice, jelly, and syrups.  They can also be canned.  I will be doing post on elderberries soon.
 This is a new variety I tried.  It's Dark Red Norland.  The Red Norland were a lot more productive.

Friday, August 22, 2014


I love growing mint:  peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, and my favorite chocolate mint.  I'm excited to read this book. Let me know if you enjoy it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Freezing Corn on the Cob

Summer wouldn't be the same without fresh sweet corn.  I plant two varieties with different maturity dates so there is no cross pollination. My two favorites are Jubilee which is a yellow corn and Silver Queen which is a white corn.  Both are SU varieties.

 The first task is to shuck the corn  and remove the silks.  I do this outside saving the husks for the compost pile.  I have corn silk brush that works pretty good at removing the silks.  As you rub it over the corn it balls up the silks.

Blanch the corn to stop enzyme action.  I blanch it for 2 minutes in boiling water. Place in a bowl of ice water immediately to stop the cooking process.

 Lay the corn on paper towels or a rack to dry completely and cool down completely. A this point you can freeze it on the cob or cut it off and put the kernels in freezer containers.  It's nice to have some available through the winter both ways.

I place two cobs on freezer paper, shiny side up, and roll them up and tuck under the edges.

The corn wrapped in freezer paper ready to freeze.

I put wrapped corn in a plastic bag, label the bags, and put it in the freezer.

This is my favorite, Silver Queen, unless of course I'm eating the Jubilee then I think I like that one better which is why I plant both every year.

This year I also planted popcorn and Floriani Polenta Corn.  If you plant different varieties you have to stagger the plantings so they do not tassel at the same time or else you'll end of cross pollinating your sweet corn with field corn.

I have a link to my blog on growing corn so you can understand the different varieties, when to plant, how to fertilize, and how to prevent worms. Now is the time you could prepare an area for corn.  Remember you need at least a 5x5 block of corn to have good pollination because it is wind pollinated.  The more area you devote to corn the better your results.  I do not recommend the 3 sisters planting .  This corn grows seven feet high and shades the beans too much.  You can plant squash on the outside; however, then it will be difficult to get down your corn rows. By using lots of compost and side dressing corn you will have much better results.

Neighbors love getting sweet corn and you can also can it, I live it with red peppers and thyme, and make corn relish which is tomorrows project.

My lab loves fresh sweet corn.  I have to watch her when I'm outside shucking corn because she will sneak a cob or two when I turn my back

My beagle figures she's suppose to like this stuff because her lab friend does but she not a sweet corn fan. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Praying Mantis Friend

As I went to get the wagon to haul corn, I discovered this hitch hikers on the handle-  a Praying Mantis.  With their huge eyes and head that can do a 180, they are a little bit creepy but a gardeners friend. 

These ambush hunters will eat any insect including beneficial insects but I like them in my yard and garden because they will also eat their share of caterpillars, squash bugs, beetles, and grasshoppers.  My sons used to stick one in an aquarium for a few weeks and feed them grasshoppers.  They thoroughly enjoyed watching them catch and consumer their prey.

Watch for spongy brown egg cases attached to solid surfaces of plant stems.  The small nymphs hatch in the spring and will even eat each other. The adults will live the entire season. You can purchase egg cases to put in your garden but they are not cold hardy.  Our natural species seem to do just fine.  I'm always running these big eyed bugs everywhere in the yard. 

Blessings of a Good Harvest

A good harvest brings a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the Lord's creations.  There is  satisfaction and peace in growing, harvesting, eating, sharing, and preserving your own food. Whether it's fresh produce or a canned jars lining your shelf, nothing is more satisfying.  I hope somehow our efforts will inspire you and your family to dig in and garden.

Today I was harvesting Silver Queen Sweet Corn.

These are dried beans which are so easy to grow and so many varieties are available. They will stay on the bush until the pods are dry and brittle and the beans a fully mature.  They are a great storage item and if you planted open pollinated varieties you have you seeds for the next year

Giant Golden Amaranth

Healthy pumpkin vines

View down the corn row.

More dried beans.  You can also eat these as green beans.

Banana peppers and Anehiem chili peppers

Everbearing berries are very large and sweet this time of year.


Fresh sweet corn is so good.

I did not have a large peach harvest.  Most of them froze, but I sure enjoyed what I did have.