Canning Report, August 2012: “I Yike Apple Toss”

First and foremost, be sure to add Jenna and her lovely blog, Upcountry Living, to your blog roll! We have a little collab going (that’s what the cool kids say, right? collab?) of guest posts. Check out our guest post on her blog, “Chicken FAIL,” and stay tuned in early September for a report right here from our best (and, admittedly, our only) buddy in Maine!

Next up: August canning report! Seeing as it is now September, you can see I’ve been a tad behind on my canning reports. With all the chicken telenovela drama we’ve been having, the canning reports have dropped to the wayside a bit. Who cares about canning reports when UFOs are flying out of chickens’ backsides and the little death defying jerks are breaking out and braving the wilds of So Bro?!

August:

    • Honeyed Hot Peppers (3 half-pint jars): Yes, more honeyed hot peppers! Now that it has rained a bit again and the temperatures are cooling, the peppers are finally taking off. This recipe is perhaps one of our favorite foods around here – we put them on burgers, huevos rancheros, egg sandwiches, tacos. They are fantastically hot.

20120825. Honeyed hot peppers.

    • Roasted Tomatoes (4 half-pint jars): I will admit, I am lazy when it comes to tomatoes. Peeling seems like a horrible pain in the tookus. Plus, I discovered last summer that I absolutely love the sweetness of roasted tomatoes. So instead, I roasted a big batch of Romas, then added the appropriate amount of lemon juice and canned them based on a different basic tomato recipe. I hope we don’t get botulism.

20120812. My grandma's chicken, roasted tomatoes, honeyed hot peppers, and Thomas Jefferson.

  • Apple Sauce (10 jars and counting): What can I say… in the immortal words of my favorite uncle, Kyle, I yike apple toss (Kyle didn’t utter a word until he was about four years old. The first thing he said was, instead, a sentence: “I yike apple toss”).  I have probably one more batch worth of apples in the fridge, too, so there will be more apple sauce. Oh, yes.

July:

  • Pickled Beets (3 jars)
  • Honeyed Hot Peppers (5 half-pint jars, plus some)
  • Cinnamon Blueberry Jam (9 4-oz. jelly jars)
  • Garden Herb Blueberry Jam (2 jars)
  • Rosemary Jelly (8 half-pint jars)
  • Hot-Cumin Pickled Summer Squash (4 jars)
  • Turmeric Refrigerator Pickles (4 jars)

June:

  • Bread and Butter Pickles (4 jars)
  • Honeyed Green Hot Peppers (2 jars)
  • Pickled Beets (2 jars)
  • Classic Pickle Spears (3 jars)

A Peaceable Kingdom?

I have a new term for the weather we’ve been experiencing the last several days: chicken weather. It has been fantastic weather to be a chicken – a few gigantic, air-snapping, earth-shaking storms have blown through, leaving in their wake new green grasses poking through the brown, cool temperatures, and breezy blue skies that make me think of fall.

It’s good human weather, too. I feel a certain weight lifted off my shoulders – today, at least, I don’t have to worry about our sick chickens also being incredibly heat stressed. I don’t need to make them ice water baths all day or set up the fans or try to get them to eat frozen blueberries. Today, they can peck happily about the backyard, and I can take it a little easier than I have since the beginning of July.

Today also marks me and Chris’ two-year anniversary of our first date. What was our first date, you ask? Lying in a portable hammock on the edge of a farmer’s field in Martinsville, IN, watching the Perseid meteor showers and drinking wine. Pretty epic, right? Two years later, we have a house, two cats, five chickens, and so SO many plans. Life – it is good!

In honor of keeping things simple and low stress, let’s go on a pictorial tour of what chicken weather means at the Space-Farm, shall we?

20120804. Cicada shell and... cicada.

Cicada (not an alien, I promise) and cicada shell on a basil plant.

20120804. Beaker in ecstasy.

Before we could move the coop to its permanent location, the chickens took the chance to have a good bath. Here’s Beaker in ecstasy dust bathing in the dirt.

The chickens were VERY helpful in messing up my beautifully flattened, perfect foundation for the new permanent coop location. We refuse to move that dang coop ever again! They were in such heaven I probably couldn’t have stopped them even if I had had the heart to do so.

And now on to a few of the happy chickens:

20120808. Little Red.

Little Red is growing, although it’s hard to tell.

20120808. Oh, HI THERE.

Oh, HI. I didn’t see you there… You creep.

20120808. Mauled by Easter Eggers.

Near-nightly mauling by the Easter Eggers.

20120812. Honey bees on fennel flowers.

Honey bees and fennel.

20120812. Two-year anniversary of our first date! This was right as Chris was saying, "Do I really have to hold the cake?"

He didn’t like it, but he humored me and let me take this picture. Happy anniversary, boyfriend!

20120812. Honeyed hot peppers and Thomas Jefferson.

The prettiest honeyed hot peppers I have ever made… and Thomas Jefferson.

20120811. Mutant turnips!

It might be time to harvest some of the turnips. GIANTS!

20120811. Sunflower dreams.Happy chicken weather to all, and to all a good night!

Canning Report, the Last of July 2012 (aka the Month that Would Never Die)

Not gonna lie: this has been kind of a rough month.* However, with the turning of the calendar page in just two more sleeps, I’m feeling cautiously optimistic that maybe, possibly things will get better in August. With tentative joy, then, I give you… THE FINAL CANNING REPORT FOR JULY, which features a lot of delicious repeats.

July:

    • Pickled Beets (3 jars): The first batch of pickled beets were so delicious, I planted a ton more AND made a trip to the farmers’ market for two big bunches of them. We cooked up the greens over a couple of different nights, then pickled three jars of beets. Totally worth the $6 I paid to the local farmer.

20120715. BEETS.

20120729. Rosemary jelly, honeyed hot peppers, and thunder dome.

Left to right: Thunder Dome, rosemary jelly, and honeyed hot peppers.

Also canned this month:

  • Cinnamon Blueberry Jam (9 4-oz. jelly jars)
  • Garden Herb Blueberry Jam (2 jars)
  • Rosemary Jelly (3 half-pint jars)
  • Hot-Cumin Pickled Summer Squash (4 jars)
  • Turmeric Refrigerator Pickles (4 jars)

June:

  • Bread and Butter Pickles (4 jars)
  • Honeyed Green Hot Peppers (2 jars)
  • Pickled Beets (2 jars)
  • Classic Pickle Spears (3 jars)

*I should add that there have also been awesome things going on this month, so it’s not all bad. We’re happy, we’re alive… we’re just a little worn down at the moment. Nothing to see here!

Canning Report, July 2012: Non-Stop Jam Action

Confession: I’ve never considered myself to be a fan of jam or jelly. Oh, I like a good PB&J just as much as the next person, and there’s nothing like toast with some lemon curd or apple butter smeared on it. But jam? I just don’t eat it that often.

So what the hell was I doing this morning, canning three different types of jams and jellies? Apparently, I don’t like STORE-BOUGHT jams. Homemade jams turn out to be the bomb.

Without further ado, then, here is the July canning report – heavy on the sweets.

July:

    • Cinnamon Blueberry Jam (9 4-oz. jelly jars) – With a healthy infusion of cinnamon and cloves, this jam smelled divine while it was cooking – almost like summertime Thanksgiving. The recipe came from a booklet Chris’ aunt and uncle sent us as a housewarming present: a canning magazine from Taste of Home.
20120714. A little army of cinnamon blueberry jam.

A little army of jams.

    • Garden Herb Blueberry Jam (2 jars) – Can you tell we came into a LOT of blueberries recently? Five pounds for $10 at the store! We froze a lot for the chickens, we’ve eaten a lot, and there was still plenty of room for jam. I used the same recipe as above but used dried basil, oregano, and rosemary from the garden in place of the cinnamon and cloves. Muy interesante, si?
20120714. Blueberry jam with oregano, basil, and rosemary.

Those little stick-looking things in the jam are rosemary… I hope.

    • Rosemary Jelly (3 half-pint jars) – I love incongruous flavors, so when I saw this recipe (minus the green food coloring, that is), I knew I had to try it. And, OHMYGOODNESS, it is so so good, y’all! It’s sweet, a little tangy, with a warm spicy rosemary undertone.
20120714. Rosemary jam - a serious winner.

Rosemary jelly sans insane green food dye.

20120714. Rosemary jam and cream cheese - OMGYUM.

Fancy Saturday Breakfast: English muffin, cream cheese, and rosemary jelly.

    • Tomato Sauce (1 jar) – This was my first attempt at tomato sauce. I was a little disheartened to see how many tomatoes it took to make just one jar of somewhat watery sauce! I will keep trying, though. I’m thinking this stuff might actually make a delicious bloody Mary!
    • Easy Pickles (3 jars) – Since I didn’t really have enough cucumbers on hand to do full-blown pickles (and it was so stinking hot I couldn’t imagine getting the water bath canner going), I gave an easy refrigerator pickle recipe a try. This was also from the Taste of Home; can you see a pattern here?
20120710. Pickles and tomato sauce.

My first jar of something resembling tomato sauce (and some more pickles).

  • Hot-Cumin Pickled Summer Squash (4 jars)
  • Turmeric Refrigerator Pickles (4 jars)

June:

  • Bread and Butter Pickles (4 jars)
  • Honeyed Green Hot Peppers (2 jars)
  • Pickled Beets (2 jars)
  • Classic Pickle Spears (3 jars)

How to Do Nearly Everything Wrong

I’m pretty convinced that we have been doing everything wrong this year. There is really no reason to try to comfort us and tell us we haven’t. This probably says more about my own chronic self-doubt and second guessing than anything (weird when you compare that to my general must act now/impulsive attitude), although re: chicken raising, I’m pretty certain we have, in fact, done everything wrong.

I just hope we make it to the other side to write an undoubtedly HIGH-LARIOUS book about how wrong we are. As it is, we have an upper respiratory thing going on right now with the chickens because we were idiots who thought Beaker needed a flock more than she needed quarantined, healthy chickies to join her.

And that’s just the start of How We Have Done Things Wrong.

I can’t think of that now, however. We did things wrong, we will learn from it, and now we just have to make the best of it and hope that all of our chickens end up being strong and tough and full of spunk. So far, they are all hanging in there famously and, aside from a few runny noses and a LOT of chicken disease research, they all seem fairly happy with each other and in general.

Fingers and all other pink parts are crossed (along with electrolytes and yogurt and frequent/obsessive checking) that we didn’t set these girls up for failure and doom. I hope I’m not reading this entry in another month and kicking myself for not DOING MORE (see? there’s that good old self-doubt and second guessing coming in).

In keeping with this whole half-empty/half-full theme I’ve got going tonight…

Sad Trombone
My pitiful little carrot (note that it is supposed to be that color… just not that misshapen and totally squishy).
20120712. Carrots are not my strong suit.

Dying yellow squash plants, which is heartbreaking since the cumin-pickled squash I made a few weeks ago is THE MOST DELICIOUS THING EVER (along with pickled beets… they can share the title, right?).
20120711. State of the garden address.

And… our absolutely Swiss-cheesed green beans. This is the second year in a row they succumbed to some unseen pest long before I got anywhere near sick of green beans. Boo, bugs! Boo, I say.
20120711. State of the garden address.

Walking on Sunshine!
However, as per usual, the good things outweigh the bad by so very much. For instance, we have a perennial garden in front that attracts bees and birds and my own two eyes all the time.
20120706. Sunset sunlight.

We have a cat named Boombox, who I am convinced is the most awesome cat in the universe.
20120705. Stoic Boombox knows this (heat wave) too shall pass.

We have chickens who, diseased or not, are both gorgeous and friendly.They even get along with each other now, just a week and a half after first meeting.
20120706. Beaker, new gray Easter Egger, and the three wees.

We have dragonflies and tomatoes out the wazoo. I’m thinking there are so many dragonflies this year because we have been watering the garden on occasion through this drought (it hasn’t been this bad in 104 years, I was informed by the radio today) and because we keep a low water dish out amidst the perennials in front of the house. Bees, wasps, birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, and dragonflies love us this summer.
20120711. State of the garden address.

We also have the “three wees…”
20120706. Chris and the three wees.

And tomatoes like stoplights.
20120711. State of the garden address.

We also have an amazing way to eat up my proliferation of cucumbers: Adrienne’s Cucumber Salad. The cukes are finally coming back after the 100+-degree temps killed off most of their blooms. Also, sometimes you just have to pair your cucumber salad from the garden with square burgers from the freezer. It’s like when you have a nice steak, and all you’ve got on hand to pair it with is Carlo Rossi. Don’t judge.
20120711. Sometimes, you just have to pair that deilicous garden cuke salad with nasty square burgers.

Long live the cuke!
20120711. State of the garden address.

Finally, I’m super excited to pair edibles with our inedible landscaping. I ran out of room in the garden, and after pickling my first beets earlier this summer, I decided I needed moremoreMORE beets… and turnips, as long as I was at it. Here are the rings of turnips and beets on the front of the house.
20120711. State of the garden address.

How’s that for the most roller coaster-y, bipolar entry ever? It’s been a wild ride this summer, and I’m just holding on.

Canning Report, July 2012

After heading out of town for five days, there was some garden tending and harvesting in my very-near future. This morning’s haul – fennel bulbs (no idea what the hell I’m going to do with these things, but I will soon learn!), summer squash, pickling cucumbers, a handful of grape tomatoes, and a few (blossom-rotted) Romas. I need to get that under control for sure.
20120704. Garden haul.

July:

  • Hot-Cumin Pickled Summer Squash (4 jars) – Cumin and summer squash? What’s not to love? This recipe is from Canning for a New Generation. The author uses a LOT of apple cider vinegar in her recipes, which I am just not a huge fan of. Basically, I end up cutting the cider vinegar in half and using plain white vinegar to get to the correct total required.
  • Turmeric Refrigerator Pickles (4 jars) – Again, this recipe is from Canning for a New Generation, based on the Persian Tarragon Pickle recipe. Since I didn’t have tarragon, I used my nose to make some spice modifications and added turmeric and celery seed to the called-for garlic, coriander seeds, and hot chiles. I didn’t read through the recipe when I chose it, but I was happy when I discovered they were refrigerator pickles. No need to open up the pores this morning over a boiling, bubbly water bath canning setup! I also decided to slice them thinly into rounds, like the delicious side of pickles you get with your meal at Twenty Tap, one of the best little spots in Indianapolis (particularly if you like beer and fried cheese curds).
20120704. Turmeric refrigerator pickles.

Turmeric refrigerator pickles.

June:

  • Bread and Butter Pickles (4 jars)
  • Honeyed Green Hot Peppers (2 jars)
  • Pickled Beets (2 jars)
  • Classic Pickle Spears (3 jars)

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?!

Green Tomato Tour

This year, I went a little wild with my purchasing of tomato varieties. We have a whole slew of growing things that are totally foreign to me, so I figured it was time to do a proper green tomato tour of the backyard.

Roma:

20120620. We have green tomatoes.

Grape:

20120620. We have green tomatoes.

Hog’s Heart:
20120620. Crop report - green tomatoes are wild.

Black Krim:
20120620. We have green tomatoes.

The overall garden-scape:
20120620. June garden status.

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)