Sunday, September 12, 2010
Gardening - growing your own vegetables and preserving them - is fraught with hard work during the season. After the growing season, in the winter, when the dead sunflowers stand for the birds as the only remnant in the snow of the summer garden and harvest, is time to revel in the previous years crop and plan for next year.
I believe that all gardens should be called 'Victory Gardens' like they had in WWII because us home gardeners suffer defeats and have unwarranted bumper crops.
With all of our planning and good intentions, the garden is still in the hands of fate and Mother Nature. Like Forest Gump says, "You never know what you're gonna get."
Personally, we try to fit gardening into an already busy life with full-time jobs, a teenage daughter, renovating a house, and ailing parents. Finding time to spend planting, pulling weeds and preserving is our greatest challenge. Yet, this year we managed to fill our freezer for the coming winter, and (I'm gonna be honest here) sometimes I open the freezer door just to look and see what has been accomplished. There is great satisfaction to be had, a feeling of triumph, seeing all of those vegetables lined up on the shelves waiting for a warm winter's meal.
My mother has been buying cherries and apples and pears from the Amish this summer and canning them. The other day, she took me down to her basement to show me all the jars lined up with the fruit in them. Only someone that preserves food would apprecitate what a beautiful sight that is, and how it fills you with a feeling of accomplishment, pride and security.
I say security because having food on the shelf, no matter what your bank account says, gives you a feeling of security. I am not a doomsday person, but what if the Arabs got ticked off at our country over, let's say, someone publicly burning the Quran, and let's say they decided to hike the price of oil to $200.00 per barrel, and let's say the trucker's here in the US couldn't afford to deliver food to the supermarkets anymore, or that what was being delivered was quadruple the usual cost? I know that we live in a stable country, but stranger things have happened. All I'm saying is that if we have a problem in the food chain, I'm gonna be trading some frozen tomatoes and green beans for Mom's canned pears and the economy can work itself out. It's one less thing to worry about.
Thank goodness we have grocery stores for the years when our best plans have not worked out. Last year, our tomatoes got blight and we lost almost the entire crop and I felt guilty paying huge prices for inferior store tomatoes. This year we had a bumper tomato crop & will probably enjoy them fresh-frozen until next summer.
By the way - see the previous post about freezing tomatoes - you core them and freeze them whole and the skins slip right off of the frozen tomatoes when you hold them under warm running water. Frozen tomatoes are a wonderful, time-saving alternative to canned tomatoes.
We lost our zucchini and yellow squash plants two years in a row. I know, you're astounded because they're one of the easiest plants to grow. Hey, if there's a way to screw things up . . . Last year, my husband decided to run the rototiller through the garden to cut down our weeding time and cut a swath too close to the plants, who - unbeknown to us - apparently have a shallow but expansive root system that was cut. Not weeding by hand cost us our zucchini. This year was a similar story: the zucchini and squash were in an isolated part of the garden where the snow peas stood in the spring, and my husband decided to hit the weeds in the empty part of the garden with RoundUP. The zucchini and squash apparently got some over-spray and all died. Next year, I will be weeding the squash and zucchini by hand so they are out of danger and away from my husband's good intentions. I have threatened to plant a chair in the garden to guard them.
We will also be buying sweet corn from the supermarket this year. We knew we would be too busy and hard choices had to be made regarding the workload we took on. Corn is a lot of work, and we have a large Amish community nearby where we can buy fresh corn should we decide to freeze it. This year, we skipped it.
We have never grown brussel sprouts and decided late in the season to plant some from seed. The plants came up, but we were too late to get any sprouts from them. It's good to try new things - even if they don't work out.
And speaking of crops that don't work out, we planted onions two years in a row only to have them rot in the ground. I'm pretty sure that our garden is too low and wet for them - which is great for most of the other plants, but too wet for the onions. If we want to grow them in the future, we're gonna have to construct a raised bed.
On the other hand, just for fun, I planted a variety of decorative gourds and pumpkins this year and the garden is loaded with fall fun. These are low maintenance and all you need is the seeds and plenty of room to let them ramble through the garden. I will use them for decoration and be able to give some to my friends at the office and we will be learning to make pumpkin pie from scratch (under my mother's supervision) and will probably post that exciting escapade online for you.
We had so many green beans this year that we froze all we could possibly want and gave away all our family and friends wanted, and still have them hanging in the garden. Last year, I pulled the plants as soon as the harvest was over, but let them stand this year. I am going to use this years leftovers as seeds for next year. Possibly show you how to do this in another post.
My husband grows hot peppers every other year to pickle and the plants are currently heavy with the yellow, green and red fruits, so he will soon be picking, cutting, pickling and canning his peppers for the next 2 years. We'll post this process as well if he's willing to share his secret recipe.
Our garden would be a lot more predictable if we spent the time in it that we should, grooming and weeding and doting on our plants. Someday, I hope to be able to do that. The past couple of years we have gotten our seeds and plants in as we could and hoped for the best - spending very little actual time in the garden. We were embarrassed by the weeds at times and surprised at how well the plants did in spite of our neglect.
Stay tuned & I'll try to post more the next few weeks as we continue the harvest.
Meanwhile, she exits saying, "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!"
(I'm laughing all the way to the FULL freezer.)
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Evelyn, the 89 year old matriarch of the clan, has loosely translated this recipe to me, so I'll loosely translate it to you:
First of all, decide how many stuffed tomatoes you want to cook and/or freeze and buy your ingredients accordingly. I'm shooting for 12 - 18:
- 2 bags Plain bread stuffing
- Sausage (I used one Jimmy Dean regular)
- Bacon (I'm using about 2/3 of a pound, which is what is leftover from our last BLT feast)
- 3 sweet onions, diced
- Whole stalk of celery, diced
- Natural Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- Tomatoes, washed, cored & gutted. Leave the meat on the outside of the tomato & reserve the guts minus the seeds.
- Ripe tomatoes
- Mozerella cheese for garnish on top
- Dice onion and celery.
- Sautee onion and celery. I did mine in some leftover bacon grease for extra flavor and fat. Right. I know. Set aside and divide into 2 bowls: one for sausage, one for bacon. I'm making a batch of each and we'll vote later on which tastes best.
- Cook sausage and put in one bowl of onion & celery.
- Cook bacon, chop fine, and put in the second bowl of onion and celery.
- To each bowl add: 2 eggs, one package of bread cubes, salt, pepper and tomato guts.
- Stuff tomatoes.
- Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.
- The last five minutes of baking, top each tomato with mozerella cheese & put it back in the oven until the tops are golden brown.
- Serve with any yummy summer dish.
Because I am making so much, I am going to freeze half of the batch (without cooking it) for later.
* If you like green pepper, you could dice them and sautee some with the onion and celery. I can't stand the smell of cooked green pepper, but for those of you who are fans of the green stinkers (I don't get it) I think it might be a great addition.
The tomatoes were very good, but I made waaaaay tooooo many and ended up cooking about 7 tomatoes and freezing 20. One bag of cubed bread with one package of sausage would have been sufficient. I would still use all of the celery and onion as it is full of flavor and enhances the flavor.
Also, we added fresh oregano and discussed what adding a little garlic to the onion and celery saute would do.
These are fun because you can customize them with what you have in your refrigerator. But remember, unless you want an entire shelf in your freezer filled, please use only one bag of bread cubes. Ha!
Since I've been away from the blog for so long, I thought you deserved an explanation; and that is that I have been busy, busy, busy! And I'm sorry that I haven't recorded it for you, but I promise to do better as there are some exciting things coming. . .
First up, we're moving to my new husband's family homestead, where we have kept a big garden for the past three years. Right now, we're in the process of renovating the old house and it's tomato harvest season, in addition to school starting on the 30th of August.
The big crops from the garden this year have been red raspberries, green beans, snow peas, gourds and tomatoes. The hot pepper crop is ripening on the vine and will turn into pickled peppers in the next few weeks - but not without some work.
The red raspberry bushes produce 2 crops per years and the vines are loaded for the 2nd picking sometime in September. We freeze them on cookie sheets straight out of the garden and then put them in Ziplock freezer bags after they are frozen so they aren't all squished (technical Pennsylvania term) together into a solid block later when you only want to use a few.
We make raspberry jelly, wine and syrup and retain some for mixing with fresh and canned fruit throughout the winter.
Our green beans are Blue Lake Bush Beans and are generally tough unless you cook the daylights (whatever that is) out of them. We use them for winter soup and stew where having daylights really isn't of any consequence, so they work great. To preserve them, we blanch them and vacuum seal them in Food Saver bags, and voila`, we're done.
The Snow Peas are a cool weather crop, planted early in the spring and harvested in June. Again, they are easy to preserve by blanching them and vacuum sealing them for the freezer.
The tomato crop is ripening and this week I tried freezing them for the first time, because I did not have the time or energy to can them. To freeze them, I simply washed & cored them, put them upside down on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and popped (technical term alert) them into the freezer. 24 hours later, I put the frozen red baseballs in Ziplock bags. I understand that the skins will come right off the frozen tomatoes if you run warm water over them when you are ready to use them. We'll see about that.
Anyway, today, I am making stuffed tomatoes for the first time. It's a family favorite and David's 89 year old mother has loosely translated the recipe to me which I will share in the next posting. I will be using all of those extra tomatoes you have left after you have frozen what you need for the year and given away as many as you can to neighbors, friends and cousins.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
These yummy sugar cookies are topped with fondant which is applied to the cookie with piping gel, my all-purpose glue.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Let me introduce us:
The Sugar Buzz Factory is a family project: David takes the pictures, friends stop by and Mumsie (my mother) often pitches in on large orders & I come up with ideas and get covered in flour and icing.
Stay tuned for our next baking adventure which is fondant Lady Bug cookies for a baby shower and imprinted fondant cakes (with my new rolling pins & imprint sheets!) for the neighborhood church bake sale on May 30.
Meanwhile, we head into the garden and woods for Memorial Day Weekend, which is where David found these Pink Lady Slipper Orchids.
Oh yeah, and we're gonna empty and sterilize David's car this weekend. (He says we're gonna have to rake it out before we can clean it. Oh, goodie.)
Monday, May 11, 2009
Cake Wreck http://cakewreck.blogspot.com (When professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong) honored our Flower Pot cakes on their Mother's Day 2009 post.
And NO, it wasn't because we screwed up.
Our "Going to Pot" article http://sugarbuzzgirl.blogspot.com/2008/06/going-to-pot.html featured cakes baked in real flower pots topped with fondant and gum paste flowers and they used a picture as something cute to bake on Mother's Day.
Check us all out.
Or get Sugar Buzzed.
Or get Cake Wrecked!
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
And these are the basic sugar cookie on a stick with marbled fondant decoration to look like a pink Angelique Tulip. The stems (sticks) are covered with floral tape and a silk flower is taped in to complete the look.
These went out the door with carrot cookies with fresh grated orange icing, black walnut banana bread, Key Lime Pie in an Oreo Crust & Key Lime Tarts.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
Mom is coming over some evening while we decorate our personal cookies, and we'll put the pictures up when they are complete.
Meanwhile, my next project is baseball cookies for a fundraiser on April 24. I have decided that cookies are for marketing purposes only. They are waaaaay too much work for what you get in return. I would really like to concentrate on upscale fondant cakes.
Right. We'll see how long I can hold that thought. Ha.