Monday, September 30, 2013

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes

Why do I have three huge bowls of green tomatoes (those are the largest bowls I own, and I filled that third one to overflowing like the others) with some more days of ripening on the vine possible?
There are four possible answers to that question.

1. I don't know. I'm still wishing they were on the vine with my tomato plants not ripped out.

2. After I pulled the squash plants, the slugs rapidly began turning on the tomatoes. Many were ripening with unsightly markings or half eaten. I hate slugs!

3. It's getting much colder. We've had rain and clouds, parting clouds frequently enough that there is definitely a chill in the air. I don't want to lose my tomatoes to a sudden frost.

4. My husband is going to build a raised bed out of cinder blocks in this spot for a fall/winter tunnel bed. The plants make the space unavailable for building.

So I cut vine after vine of the tomato plants, trimming green (most were actually at the white stage) tomatoes off as I went. I ended the plunder by savagely ripping out the trunks of my six wonderful tomato plants.

When I first planted these six tomato and two squash plants here, my husband laughed and said it would all get too big. I'd only planted determinate tomatoes that were of a much shorter variety and thought they'd do just fine. Ha! These Romas sprawled out and I never caged them. The photo above is after I'd cut about 5 times that much off.

To the point of the title:

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes

1. Pull tomatoes off the vine so they don't scratch or puncture the other tomatoes.

2. Wash and dry thoroughly. And I mean thoroughly! I didn't dry or wash a bowl so well and mold developed.

3. Layer tomatoes with a thoroughly washed and dried apple (apples aid in ripening).

4. Give them time.  Some are ripening in a few days, some a couple of weeks. If a tomato was picked too early, it may not ripen. I plan on freezing the tomatoes as they turn red, and then making a Tomato Sauce with the green ones added in with the reds once the process is complete for the tomatoes that WILL ripen.

Anyway, this is how I do it.  How about you??

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Ways I Saved

A few months ago, I found The Prudent Homemaker blog. My favorite post is a weekly post called Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments. It's so inspiring and makes me so very much more aware of the way we spend.

Last week, I canned homegrown tomatoes into a Basil-Garlic sauce. It's delicious!

We made do and did without when our children had little activities they wanted to do. It made us more creative and we didn't end up running out to buy extra items.

I held a spontaneous freezer-meal/canning day. I made French Bread, Vanilla Bean Pear Jam, and Pear muffins (I swapped pears for bananas in a banana bread recipe). Two bags of muffins and two loaves of bread went into the freezer. The pear jam is so delicious! I let the kiddos play with and bake some dough again. They had a blast and it held their attention for a long time.

I have been enjoying Pinterest. We have made several crafts, and used many activities for school. We have also baked several items together, which they enjoy so much. I have also been learning about Terrariums on Pinterest and the internet, and I'm figuring out how to create and keep one with inexpensive plants.

We planted some more fall crops, mostly using seed that we already had. We dug up and weeded out another bed around the house. My husband got cardboard and some inexpensive netting (our cat especially enjoys my newly planted beds...ahhhh!!) to protect the crops, and some new soil. The bed is along the side of the house, and I'm planning on mulching as well as using some hoop-house-like covers if necessary to overwinter some of the plants.

I have been more aware of turning the lights off when not in use. It's not perfect, but I'm doing better. With the cooler weather, less electricity from lights, and not using the fans so much, I'm hoping for a lower bill.

I went a little nutso at Fred Meyer last week. I stocked up on PB, 20 lbs of apples for canned pie filling and applesauce, cheese blocks, milk (threw it in the freezer), OJ (threw it in the freezer), and some other things. I think I'm done shopping for awhile!!

What about you? How did you save last week?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How to Plant your Garlic

It's Garlic time!!!  Have you purchased your Garlic Bulbs yet? I did! Bought it on Saturday and I'm so excited! I have never planted Garlic before.

I don't have much room, though I'm hoping to have more garden space soon. We are going to be building two new garden beds!  I bought a hard neck (Spanish Roja Garlic) and a soft neck (Italian Late Garlic).

My little gal helped me pull the cloves apart and plant them. Good hand model, huh?

This late spring and summer, I've grown so many vegetables and fruits that are new to me. Garlic is definitely something that was on my list, and I'm happy to have some in the ground!

To Plant Garlic:

You've only got a little bit of time to start growing Garlic, and it's a one-shot sort of deal in the fact that it's only planted in the fall.  Garlic takes roughly 9-10 months to grow.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, we've got late September-early November as our Garlic planting window.  If you're interested, determine when it's best for your climate now!

1. Separate the cloves.  Be gentle and try to not expose the flesh by peeling the thin papery skin off.  Prepare your planting area by adding some extra compost and working the soil so it's nice and loose.

2.  Plant the garlic cloves in sun, 6-10" apart, 1-4" deep.  The planting depth depends on how severe your winters are--plant closer to 4" deep for colder winters.  Make sure that the root end is down, pointy end up!

3.  Depending on the severity of your winter, mulch with straw, hay or fallen leaves around the first frost.  Use 2-6", depending on your climate.

Have you purchased your garlic yet?  What varieties did you get?

Happy Growing!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Katie's Cupboard

I moved my home-canned goods to a glass-front cupboard. I want to see the beautiful jars more often!!

From left to right: Tangy Dill Squash Relish, Blackberry Jam (top) and Peach Pie Filling (bottom), Peach Jam (top) and Pineapple Chunks (bottom), Cinnanilla Peach Jam (recipe soon!), Cinnanilla Peach Jam, Peach Pie Filling, Peach Pie Filling, Vanilla Bean Pear Jam, and my latest addition, Basil Garlic Tomato sauce from MY homegrown tomatoes.  Oh, and my husband and I seasoned this to our tastes.  Holy.  Cow.  It's delicious!!!

I bought about a half bushel of apples this week, so I'll be adding to the cupboard soon!

Have you canned anything interesting, comforting, or delicious this year?  I'd love to hear about it!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Preserving the Bounty...Some More

Well, both I and my oven mitt are tired.  We've been spending a LOT of time together lately.  I need to throw this poor thing in the wash!

I'm not quite sure what overcame me, but one morning, I had just enough energy and little enough planned for the day, that after we had school I started making a ton of food for the freezer.

The Prudent Homemaker has a delicious French Bread recipe that I've been making for a few months now. It freezes well, too!  I made a full, 4-loaf batch, threw three in my freezer, and we had pasta to go with it fresh that night.

The glassware contains some pizza dough.  It's an artisan type, and proofs in the refrigerator overnight.  I baked the crusts to put in the freezer for a quick pizza night.

I also gave my girl and boy some dough to play with.  They were delighted and it kept them quite busy for at least 45 minutes.  They are 3 and 5, so it was a GREAT activity for them.  I made the bread again yesterday, and they again had fun playing with the dough once more.  They definitely enjoyed it, and requested some dough as soon as I told them I would be making bread.

You don't know it yet, but I adore my pressure cooker.  I made 5 types of beans (white, pinto, black, garbonzo, and Pinto Beans in Chili Sauce) and a large batch of brown rice in a few hours due to my marvelous pressure cooker.  I used to be scared of them, but I've learned so much since my mom gave it to me as a birthday gift several months ago.  Yes, it needs to be used with some care, but it's not something to be scared of.  Recipes to come!

Food Pictured Above: 3 loaves of French Bread, 3 pizza crusts, 4 one-dozen-dough-ball bags of Outrageous Chocolate Chip Cookies, 4-6 bags each white, pinto, black chili and garbonzo beans, 8 one-cup packets of brown rice.  I made a chart with tallies on the side so that I can keep track of what I've got.

I'm not sure about Outrageous, but those Outrageous Chocolate Chip Cookies are delicious.  My husband usually has one or two cookies/baked items, and then he's done for the entire batch.  He's requested these two times!  They are pretty peanut buttery, fyi.  I wasn't expecting quite that much flavor.

It sure has been nice going to my list to see what we have, and what I can make for dinner and lunches.  I had a pretty decent bake/cooking day yesterday as well, and it's been fun adding to my list.  I LOVE having so much stored up for the fall and winter.

Friday, September 6, 2013

On the Bright Side

One of the last squash harvests and bigger-than-it-looks bowl of tomatoes.

My husband and I have been trying to purchase a house for three and a half months. I loved this sweet house, but I loved the yard even more.

The house was on a third of an acre, and was beautifully landscaped with a variety of garden beds and bulbs galore. There were lots of exotic-looking flowering plants, ferns, hostas, ornamental grasses, hydrangea, rhododendron, and so many plants I wanted to identify and explore.

We spent hours talking about what we would do with the house and yard, and I dreamt up all of the fruits and vegetables I wanted to persuade to grow.

Right at the end, though, it all fell apart. Though I have been working through many emotions, we have short and long-term plans and we're going to be ok.

The good thing about having half of your house packed and then having to unpack in the same house is that you get to really assess how to organize things as you put them away. I have ideas working there way throughout my entire house--better ways to do pretty much everything!

Staying in the same place after disconnecting gives you an opportunity to try again. I've gotten to know my landlords/neighbors so much, and now I can get to know them even better.

Here's to enjoying the rest of the harvest, something I had planned on gifting to my landlord.

My watermelon was actually perfect, if quite small. You CAN grow melons, late in the season, in the Pacific Northwest! Just pick personal-sized melons.

And hopefully this harvest will produce some delicious, home-canned, home-grown tomato sauce.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Tomatoes Are In!!

Well, they're really coming in now! I've been hand picking the best tomatoes for company we've had in town, which is very fun. This is the largest overall harvest I've ever had for tomatoes, and the largest single picking, too.

I'm going to get some pint jars to can tomato sauce with the rest of the tomatoes. Woohoo! I'm excited. I LOVE adding to my cupboard of home-canned foods.