Wild grapes

We’ve got some wild grapevine at the lake–Trevor noticed this past Friday that the little bunches of grapes on the vines were ripe.  We’ve never dealt with them before, but we thought it might be fun to make grape jelly from them.  They are tiny, super-sour, and are basically filled with two large pits. I’m sure many of you are familiar with them–we’d never seen them before.

So, we picked grapes.  And when we got home last night I looked in my canning books, and didn’t find one recipe for wild grape jelly.  Anybody out there have any ideas?  I will google it, and see what I come up with.  I’m sure I’ll find something.  I did have a few recipes for just regular “Concord Grape” jelly, but I’m sure they’re nowhere near as sour. So I thought I’d better look for the real thing, maybe. :)

It was, as always, a bittersweet last summer weekend at the lake.  The weather was not great, which maybe made it easier to leave–no last hours in the sun and water, as it was windy and pretty cool and drizzly. But we will miss the lake over the winter.

I’m already looking forward to our annual long fall weekend at the lake in October. :)

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It’s that time of year

Yes, you guessed it–it’s time for roasting tomatoes. :)

We’ve got tomatoes that won’t quit right now–but lots of other veggies as well. So, I decided I’d better get off my butt and make something besides BLTs for supper. :) (I mean, really, though, you can hardly get any better than a BLT with fresh tomatoes and maple bacon that’s been roasted on the grill.)

So, I took the advice of my ex-sister-in-law (hi Nancy!) from the comments on Wednesday, and made a wonderful mixed vegetable sort of stew for supper last night. And while that was stewing, I made two big pans of roasted tomatoes.

Typically I only do this with smaller tomatoes–cherries, pears, romas, things like that.  The smaller ones I just cut in half; the larger of those I cut into four or six pieces, instead. Then I sprinkle with olive oil, chopped garlic (you can skip this step, or any of them, to suit your own personal tastes), and lots of chopped fresh thyme and oregano, salt and pepper.

Then into the oven for 2 hours at about 300 degrees. They get smaller, they dry up a bit, and their wonderful tomato flavor just concentrates into something wonderful.

I put them in containers in the freezer and we’ll use them in just about anything we’d use tomatoes in–as an addition to spaghetti sauce or pizza, for a little deeper tomato flavor, or just as a sandwich topping with, say, turkey and cheese.  The possibilities are endless.  And it’s so much faster than making up a batch of salsa and canning it. :)

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More vegetables than sense

I was going to call this picture “More Vegetables Than Time”. . . but I decided it was really sense I was lacking more than time and motivation. :) I just cannot turn down fresh produce when it’s offered–do you know what I mean?

More CSA bounty, plus gifts from friends at work–cukes, zukes, summer squash, onions, a lone beet, broccoli, beans. . . beefsteak tomatoes on the windowsill, romas on the counter. A few delicious CSA potatoes. I am awash with beautiful vegetable bounty. But I don’t have time to do anything with it. My new job is absolutely wonderful–everything I had hoped, and more. The people are just fantastic. The schedule is flexible.  But, right now, when classes start tomorrow, things are just crazy here.  In spite of the fact that I only work 3/4 time and I had last Monday off, I’m still going to have in more than 80 hours for the two-week period. And this weekend is clean-up weekend at the lake–taking out the dock, the boat, the boatlift, and just generally getting the place sort of buttoned up for winter. So I won’t have any time for vegetable-preservation this weekend.

Again, please understand, I am absolutely not complaining.  I just love this place, and I love my new digs and my new duties. But it is overwhelming right now, especially since I’m just learning most of what I need to know how to do.

I don’t think there will be any canning in my near future.

But, there’s always the freezer–I have to figure out how to preserve cucumbers, other than making pickles, but for everything else there’s chopping and freezing. That I can do. :)

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Pickles, pickles, pickles

And chutney. :) That could be the title of my weekend.  I had a very productive couple of days.  This is the breakdown of what I made and canned (mostly on Saturday):

Peach chutney, 12 half-pints
Sweet pickle chunks, 9 pints
Refrigerator cukes, 2 pints (this is a recipe that doesn’t get processed)
Bread and Butter pickles, 6 pints
Pickled carrots, 3 pints (I actually had 4, and one broke in the canner–don’t you just hate that??)
Corn, one 4-cup package into the freezer
Kosher dills, 3 quarts and 5 pints

I was absolutely exhausted when I went to bed on Saturday night.  And I still have about 10 pounds of cucumbers left–I had other things going on yesterday and I didn’t want to take the time to make another couple batches of pickles.

We certainly shouldn’t run out of pickle-y things to eat this winter. :)

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You’ll never guess what I saw slithering through the garden the other night.

YUCK!! I hate snakes. . . I know, I know, they won’t hurt me.  In our area it’s mostly garter snakes.  But I have a phobia, and they just give me the serious willies.  You know that saying, it’s more scared of you than you are of it?  Well, in my case, that’s not true at all. :)

And this sighting was right on the heels of discovering a wasp nest in one of our window wells.  I’m telling you, it’s like wild kingdom in our yard right now.

As I’ve said before, if we have to have snakes, the very least they could do is scare the rabbits away. But our snakes apparently have a deal worked out with our rabbits so they seem to coexist happily. I hate them both. :) (Please don’t send me hate mail–I know some people love rabbits. And snakes. Which is awesome. But I just don’t, so please don’t berate  me for it.)

So, because I would never, ever taint my blog with a photo of a snake, I shared with you, instead, a photo of the flowers I picked for my desk the other day.

I think I’ll be spending the weekend canning–I chopped and froze a bunch of peppers the other night but I’ve still got piles and piles of cukes and zukes waiting for me to do something with them. If you have a favorite way of canning (or freezing, or whatever) veggies, leave a comment–maybe I’ll try something new! :)


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And more. . .

Of course you know what I mean by that.  More cukes. More zukes. Some beets and carrots. And yesterday another CSA box. And then Trevor picked up a box of peaches from the local church youth organization. Our fridge is literally full of fresh produce.

And there are a few boxes and bags of things that just simply won’t fit anymore.

I’m pretty sure I know what I’ll be doing this weekend! That’s right, you guessed it:  canning, canning, and then maybe a bit of canning. ;)

Oh no, I’m really not complaining.  Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer of mass of it, but still thrilled to have it. And I know that, this winter, it will be wonderful to get a bag of “fresh” frozen peas, beans, or corn out of the freezer for making a tasty meal. And it will be wonderful to be able to open a jar of home-made pickles.  Carrot pickles, green bean pickles, cucumber pickles, zucchini pickles–I’ll pickle just about anything. I think I’m going to try a new one (new to me, anyway, but from the classic Ball Blue Book of Canning): End of the Garden Pickles.  It’s got broccoli, carrots, onions, peppers, and I can’t remember what all.  But it sounded like a great way to preserve some of this wonderful bounty!

I may have to actually start canning in the evenings this week, so the produce doesn’t all wait for Saturday. But it should be a very full (and fulfilling) weekend! :)

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And the produce just keeps coming

I’m not complaining, believe me. :)

But I am starting to wonder if I’m crazy. I just can’t turn down produce. We got our CSA on Tuesday; it was corn, beans, zucchini, cucumber, broccoli, potatoes, and onions. Then a friend from work brought in a bunch of produce from her garden.  From her I received some cabbage, some snow peas, some shelling peas, a different kind of green bean, more zucchini, more cucumber, and more broccoli. And another coworker brought me that gorgeous bright yellow pattypan squash. (The picture doesn’t even show the corn, shelling peas, or onions.)

Then, I went to the grocery store to pick up one thing. . . and they had red peppers on sale for a dollar each.  Yes, I bought eight. ;) And Trevor comes home with another bag of cucumbers and/or zucchini every other day. Which is awesome, since we don’t actually have either one of those things in our garden.

What I’m going to do with all this stuff, I have no idea–I hope it lasts until next week, because we’re going to the lake this weekend so I won’t be doing any canning for a few days.

I will be able to use some of the produce at the lake because I’m making Corn and Zucchini Simmered in Coconut Milk with Thai Basil–the name is a bit cumbersome, but it’s absolutely delicious (it’s from one of my favorite cookbooks, Local Flavors, by Deborah Madison). And it’s a great way to use zucchini and corn. Plus, I actually have Thai Basil in my garden, if you can believe it. (Just a note, if you do look at or want to try the recipe: I actually use chicken instead of tofu, because we just happen to like the taste and texture better with chicken. And I substitute fresh parsley for cilantro, because neither one of us can stand the taste of cilantro.)

So, too much produce: it’s a wonderful problem to have!


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The canning season begins. . .

I spent the last few days of my summer vacation canning. I had all this zucchini, and all these cucumbers, and it just kills me to see any of that wonderful local produce go to waste. So, I canned.

I tried some new things, in fact, that I’d never done before.

I made the typical dill pickles (I had picked up some of those tiny little pickling cukes from the farmers market the week before, because of course, I needed to have MORE produce to have to take care of). :)

I made zucchini pickles–it’s a recipe that’s got lots of ground and whole cumin in it, so I’m guessing they will go well with Indian food.  I haven’t tried them yet, but I hope they’re good, because I’ve got about nine jars.

I made my “usual” bread and butter pickles–a very easy recipe and always dependable.

Then I made relish–but with zucchini instead of cucumbers (I had a recipe that actually called for zucchini and green pepper). It tastes like regular pickle relish–pretty good. :)

Then I did something crazy; I made mustard. Yep. Mustard, which is so cheap you can buy it by the quart. But if I can can something, I’m happy. So I tried these two new recipes (new to me, anyway) for mustard: Spicy Honey Mustard, and Grainy White Wine Mustard. I haven’t dared to try them yet, but I may have to break them out this weekend at the lake and give them a shot.

In any case, it was lots of fun. I haven’t canned anything in quarter-pint jars in a long time! And it’s always so fulfilling, for some reason, to see those canned goods stack up. This is just the beginning, I’m sure, of a long and happy canning season. :)

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The color continues

I just have to share another picture of the tiger lilies that are currently blooming their heads off in my gardens (literally–hahaha!).

Every year I am just blown away by the bright colors of August–and these lilies are certainly keeping up their end.  I think I may dig up a couple of the areas I have them in so I can separate them and put them in even more places.  For some reason I have none of these in the front yard at all, and I think it’s high time I correct that error.

Another reason I just love these lilies is that I got the bulbs from my Aunt Jane; I think it’s so cool that she passed them on to me, and that just makes them all that much more special to me.  I have no idea what cultivar they are–I’m guessing they’re just the regular, old-fashioned kind.  But often those are the types of flowers that come back dependably, year after year, and take no kind of special treatment. Which is another reason they are so perfect. :)

The amazing, beautiful, stunning weather continues. . . I’m so grateful that there’s a huge window in my new office, so even when I’m at work I can enjoy the sunshine. :)

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Late summer color

I know I’ve been terrible about posting regularly this summer–this being my first summer of not working since 1986, I guess I’ve just not been on the computer much. :) I do have to say, it’s been one of the best summers of my life.  I am thrilled to say that my new job is three-quarters time, so from now on I will have lots of time off in the summer! That’s something I’ve always wanted, and most especially since I started working on college campuses about 22 years ago. A dream realized! :) I feel so amazingly blessed!

I’ve been enjoying my last few days of vacation this week and spending lots of time just enjoying the view in the yard, which has exploded with color. The tall, old-fashioned tiger lilies are blooming up a storm, and I just love their unabashed bright orange color.

One thing I find so fascinating about perennials, is that as what’s blooming changes through the seasons, all the colors always look good together.  In spring, the bird bath garden is all blue and light purple and pink, and at the end of the season it’s all bright yellow, orange, and fuchsia. I feel like a gardener really has nature on her side–it’s hard, in my opinion, to have a bad combination of colors.

I’m planning on enjoying the last weekend of my vacation, and have actually been doing a fair amount of canning already–I will do a post next week on what kinds of things I’ve put up (a few new things for me!).

Have a wonderful weekend, and enjoy this gorgeous weather! :)

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