"Commentary from the Countryside"
Thoughts on current events,
history, homesteading, preparedness, real food, and anything else I find interesting, from a cranky, middle-aged woman's common-sense perspective.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Time to Fill the Jars!

It's so wonderful to have a circle of good people about; not only do I have a great family but my church family is something special too.  One of my church family arranged for me to trade a bunch of my seedlings I grew this spring for some farm fresh chickens.  I'm pretty sure I came out the winner on this one!  The chickens were raised without chemicals, drugs, or hormones, and their home was only a dozen miles from my homestead.  Eat local, right?

Well these chickens met their end a couple of weeks ago; by the time I got over after church to lend a hand the bloody bit was over, so I got to help a little with the bagging and weighing part.  There were chicken carcasses all over the kitchen, and a lot of gabbing and laughing as the work was done, sort of like an old-time work bee.

Ideally, I would have brought all twenty chickens home and stayed up all night stuffing them into jars and wrassling with the Creature to get them all processed.  However the combination of having to work, and the imminent visit of the small humans known as nephews had me frantically making room in the freezer.

So I pulled out several chickens this weekend, chopped them up, filled my jars, and processed them.  Eight pints done so far, and all sealed.  It seems the Creature and I have called a truce; pressure canning isn't nearly the frightening, nerve-wracking thing that it was.  I did learn a few lessons:  a sharp knife is essential (I'll have to learn to keep them sharp!), it is much easier to cut the raw meat when it is still partially frozen, and working with partially frozen meat can really freeze your hands!

The garden is very sad, mostly overcome by the relentless weeds.  I will have to purchase beans and corn from my Amish neighbors to have enough to can up this season, which troubles my frugal heart, as I should be able to get enough from my garden, rather than using money for vegetables, but you do what you have to do, right?  I do have a few spaghetti squash, peppers, and some tomatoes are finally turning red.  I like to do most of the tomato prep work outside, just because it makes such a big mess.  I do the work at my picnic table, and can simply hose everything down.

I start with the best tomatoes I can pick, and wash them before dropping them into boiling water, using the blancher.  My grill opens up enough to accommodate the blancher and does a good job of keepng the water boiling.  After the tomatoes have been in the boiling water for just a few minutes, I pull them out and plunge them into a bowl of cold water.  this makes the skins loosen, and cools them enough for handling.  I pull the skins off, and then put the tomatoes through my Victorio strainer.  This great little kitchen gadget will crush the tomatoes, pushing all the seeds and tough bits out the end, while allowing the puree to pour into a bowl.  This whole process makes a huge mess, especially when the plunger makes a tomato squirt all over - usually getting the walls, ceiling, and my face, while completely missing the newspapers put down to catch the drips.  The bowls of puree are dumped into my heavy duty stock pot, cooked down to the desired consistency, and then jarred and processed.  This method is great because the puree lends itself to so many recipes - everything from ketchup to soup to dried tomato leather.  Quarts are water-bathed for forty minutes, pints for thirty-five.  While I grow heirloom tomatoes that weren't bred for sweetness, there's no way to be sure how acid they are, so I add about a tablespoon of lemon juice to each jar, just to be sure.
The Outside Kitchen!
There's nothing so lovely as jar after jar of bright red tomato puree lined up on the counter!

Until next time, may God bless you and keep you.

1 comment:

  1. Missed not being there to help! Last year was fun ...