Canning Report, Late-June

It’s time for the next installment of 2012’s canning report – now with bread and butter pickles.

June 2012:

  • Bread and Butter Pickles (4 jars) – Six giant pickling cucumbers, some red onions, and a vat of boiling spices yielded a whole heck of a lot of bread and butter pickles. I’m really excited. Last year, the cucumber plants all got bacterial wilt before I could make as many pickles as I wanted to. So far, so good this year.
  • Honeyed Green Hot Peppers (2 jars)
  • Pickled Beets (2 jars)
  • Classic Pickle Spears (3 jars)
20120626. Canning report: 4 more jars of bread and butter pickles.

What’s up, B&B pickles?!

Out in Space, Back on Land

Out in Space – Now With More Clusters!

Last night, we went to the Goethe Link Observatory for some star gazing with fellow star geeks. Keep in mind, I am more or less just along for the ride when it comes to star gazing. I enjoy staring up into space, to be sure, and I especially appreciate stars of the shooting variety. Chris is really the expert, though, when it comes to all things telescope-y; he needs to do a proper update about sun funnels, Venus transits, and all that lovely jazz (hint, hint).

20120611. Goethe Link Observatory, Martinsville, IN.

My favorite finds of the evening: M7, or Ptolemy’s Cluster. I found this cluster by accident with Chris’ awesome binoculars. My method of star gazing basically means I wildly scan all over the sky with the scope or binoculars until something different crosses my field of vision. This was definitely something different. M7 is a relatively close 800 to 1000 light-years away and resides within the Orion spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy. You can see it with the naked eye at the end of the stinger on Scorpio. Ptolemy first mentioned it in 130 AD.

From NASA’s Astronomy Photo of the Day.

Saturn never ceases to amaze, too. I actually found this one the other night from our backyard. I pointed the telescope at what looked like just another bright star… and realized something was off. It had a RING. And that is how we found Saturn. While it wasn’t QUITE this clear, we could see the rings and several of Saturn’s bazillion moons.

From NASA’s Astronomy Photo of the Day.

Chris’ fave: the Coat Hanger Asterism. This was totally viewable with binoculars (actually, we couldn’t see it with the telescope because it zoomed in too far). Like the Big Dipper, this is really just a chance alignment of stars rather than a cluster. So sparkly, so pretty.

From NASA’s Astronomy Photo of the Day.

Back on Land

Last night, our heads were in the stars. This morning, I was decidedly back on Earth, digging in the dirt first thing (er… at 10:30 AM – hey, whatever, we didn’t even get home until 3 AM!) and planting beet seeds, turnips, and cabbage. Our garden is starting to get its legs, and I have green tomatoes, tons of baby yellow squash, harvestable green beans, hot peppers, and basil that is just screaming to be made into gallons upon gallons of pesto.

Which brings me to the updated canning report, now with hot peppers!

June 2012:

  • Honeyed Green Hot Peppers (2 jars) – Canned today, I used a modified recipe for honeyed jalapeno pepper halves from my Canning for a New Generation book (I cut out the allspice). This is one of the best things I canned last fall when, faced with a killer frost, I was forced to harvest over 200 green cayenne peppers. I am totally not sure if I’m using the right recipe, but I really hope I am!
  • Pickled Beets (2 jars)
  • Classic Pickle Spears (3 jars)

Canning Report, Mid-June

Canning season is upon us! I’m going to keep a running list this summer of all things canned – you know, just for kicks. And to feel like I actually accomplished something this summer.

June 2012:

  • Pickled Beets (2 jars) – Using the recipe from the Ball Jar Canning cookbook. These things are delicious! I’ve been scooping them out of the jar with a fork and eating them straight.
  • Classic Pickle Spears (3 jars) – I totally cheated on these by using a packet of pickling spices I bought last spring. We’ll see if they work out.

20120609. First ever pickled beets.

(Not at All) Weekly Roundup: aka Picture Pages!

We worked our butts off yesterday in the sun and heat, and I have the awkward tan lines and weirdly sore muscles to prove it. In celebration of being exhausted, I’m going to just stick with the pics today. We’ve had an eventful week on ye olde home front.

20120602. Hiking at Shades State Park.

We started the weekend at Shades State Park, west of Indianapolis, to celebrate Chris’ birthday weekend. BIRTHDAY!

20120602. Hiking at Shades State Park.

I was NOT all that into the giant black snake CLIMBING UP A TREE that we encountered at the end of one of our hikes.

20120602. Hiking at Shades State Park.

Phew! The snake did not eat us, and we lived to tell the tale and eat another hot dog.

20120609. First ever pickled beets.

Have I mentioned lately that I like beets? And canning? Here are the finished pickled beets. Today I planted about 6 more rows of beet seeds!

20120607. Freezing pesto!

I also froze some fresh pesto.

20120609. Well-loved lettuce.

As of this morning, many of the lettuces and all the snap peas are no longer. This alien-looking thing is the sign of a well-loved, well-eaten lettuce plant.

20120609. Welcome... to the backyard, where we basically spend all our time.reopsis, and coneflower.

Did I mention the outside world kicked our collective asses yesterday? We decided, what with our upcoming housewarming party and the tour de coops, it was time to beautify the side of the house a bit. Where once there was dying grass, we now have coneflower, coreopsis, and blazing star (with a couple of rosemary plants thrown in for good measure).

20120609. We planted the side of the house! Blazing star, correopsis, and coneflower.

Mmm, blazing star!

20120609. Yellow sqaush is off the charts awesome.

Pretty soon, we are going to be very sick of yellow squash. I’m all for freezing it for later, though!

20120609. Hot Ono.

The girls commiserated with our general heat-strokiness yesterday.

20120610. Convertible picnic table.

Really, though, the entire point of this post has been leading up to THIS PICTURE – our brand new cedar convertible bench/picnic table!

20120610. Convertible picnic table = sexy.

Seriously, I think I’m in love.

Happy Pesto Day!

I have declared a new holiday – Pesto Day! The actual date changes each year since pesto day is really just a celebration of the first day you have enough basil in the garden to make a decent dollop of the delicious stuff. Here in scorching hot Indiana, today was that day.

After harvesting the basil this morning, I had to go on a hunt of the bookshelf for my super basic, super delicious pesto recipe. No, it’s not in a cookbook. Let’s see, where is that dang book? Here it is!
20120527. Where the pesto recipe lies.

Turn to the last page, and there we have it – the “recipe,” pulled off some random website last summer and jotted into the back of the book I was reading at the time. Thankfully, I made pesto so much last summer that I still remember which book holds the ingredients.
20120527. Happy Pesto Day!

I think it’s time to have it in another, easier to find location, don’t you?

Garden Pesto:
– 2 cups basil
– 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
– 1/2 cup olive oil
– 1/3 cup walnuts (cheaper than pine nuts, yet oh so tasty)
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– Salt and pepper to taste

Throw in a blender, blend it until smooth, and smear it on some crusty bread for instant deliciousness. We also discovered last year that you can freeze pesto in an ice cube tray and store the pesto cubes in plastic bags in the freezer to be thawed out later. There is nothing like fresh garden pesto tossed with some fresh pasta in the middle of December.

Chris just walked through the kitchen and said, “Mmm… pesto burps.” A Happy Pesto Day to all, and to all a good night!

Today’s Kitchen Adventures

It’s been a culinary bonanza up in this house today.

  • First thing this morning, I whipped up a batch of pizza dough based on Mother Earth News’ “The Secret to Incredibly Easy Homemade Pizza.” I subbed in 1/2 cup of sourdough starter, though, for 1/2 cup water, so it’s going to be extra special. Over the next two weeks, we will definitely be gorging ourselves on homemade pizza. Sweet potato, gorgonzola, and fresh rosemary from the garden, anyone? Or maybe a nice roasted asparagus and cauliflower pizza to celebrate having one foot solidly into spring? Or… BOTH!
  • I’m also about to start up a vat of spiced black beans, using Mother Earth News’ frijoles de olla recipe. Our love for huevos rancheros is as deep and vast as the sea, and buying a bag of dried beans for $1.50, cooking them up just like we like them, then freezing them until we’re ready to chow down seems like a good plan. At the end of the day, sometimes all you want to do is fry a couple of eggs, smear some delicious cumin-charged beans on a tortilla, and cover the whole lovely mess in honeyed green cayenne peppers from last fall’s canning extravaganza.
  • Next up: grapefruit curd. No comment (other than to say ZOMG I CAN’T WAIT TO EAT IT).
  • And finally: sprouted lentils, both for sprinkling on top of fresh salad (if that lettuce in the backyard ever gets big enough to pick) and for baby chick treats.

Speaking of lettuce, we have a pretty healthy, albeit small, early spring garden going. Today, I planted a few more lettuce plants, spinach, sugar snap peas, and green beans.
20120325. Early spring garden.

The beets and carrots are also starting to come up in the beds. Look at how beet-colored their baby stems are.
20120325. Baby beets.

Ono approves. (You thought I was going to make it an entire post without a chicken picture, didn’t you? You crazy). Shout out to all our friends who dropped by to visit the girlies or otherwise made this weekend fantastic! It’s over far too soon.
20120325. Me with Ono.