From garden to pantry…

Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.”  – Proverbs 6:6-8, NIV



So much of life on a homestead is made up of seasonal plans and tasks, and many of those tasks affect other goings-on later in the year.  When snow is piled high in drifts and piercing winds whip through our peaceful valley, I pore over seed catalogs, my eyes and tastebuds hungry for vivid colors and sun-ripened flavors, dreaming of frostless soil and the luminous green of tender, new spring leaves.
When red-winged blackbirds arrive with their distinctive call, the earliest seedlings emerge from freshly-turned earth, and red-breasted robins bob and skip for worms that follow the spring rains, I am already anticipating the summer days ahead.  I dream of warmth-loving peppers, squash and cucumbers, lightning bugs, whippoorwill calls and sultry summer nights, good for catfishing, whispered dreams and stolen kisses on the riverbank with the love of my life.

Preserved goodness!

Preserved goodness!

Now summer has wrapped us in her long, lazy days, and dappled fawns frolic along the hems of verdant-skirted cornfields.  The season has graced us with chicory blossoms, fledgeling bluebirds, crimson-streaked sunsets, and small-batch ice cream from our favorite local creamery.   Our annual Old Settler’s celebration and jaunts to county and state fairs are soon approaching; the garden is in full flourish with treats on every vine, and it is time – even now – to consider autumn.  It is time to remember frost, to contemplate the change of seasons that draws a bit nearer with each humid night, as the stars that now shine close enough to touch move slightly further out of reach along their timeless celestial paths.

And so, as the rhythms of summer march steadily onward with trellises shrouded in cucumber-laden vines, pepper plants heavy with sun-warmed fruit, and raised beds offering the last of late cabbages, it is time to harvest and prepare, to preserve and tuck away our bounty for the cooler months ahead.

So far this season I have – in preservation parlance – “put up” several pints of chow chow, pickles and peppers, with much more to do.  Hopefully our tomatoes will continue their recovery from septoria leaf spot and yield some good salsas, pastes and sauces in due time.  In the mean time, here are some recipes I have followed this season, as well as some I intend to use in the very near future…

Crunchy Dill Pickles – adapted from Simply Canning

  • 8 lbs of 3-4 inch pickling cucumbers
  • 2 gals water
  • 1 1/4 cups canning or pickling salt
  • 1 1/2 qts vinegar (5 percent)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 T whole mixed pickling spice
  • whole mustard seed (2 tsp to 1 tsp per pint jar)
  • garlic cloves, 1-2 per pint jar
  • grape leaves, 1 per pint jar
  • fresh dill (1 1/2 heads per pint jar) or 4 1/2 T dill seed (1 1/2 tsp per pint jar)Wash your cucumbers and thinly slice off the blossom end. (the blossoms have an enzyme that will make your pickles soft)Add 3/4 cup salt dissolved in 2 gallons water. Soak cucumbers in water for 12 hours. Drain and get your canning supplies together.Gather your canning supplies
    • water bath canner
    • canning jars
    • canning seals and rings
    • jar lifter
    • canning funnel
    • large pot
    • bowls
    • large spoons
    • sharp knife
    • towels and dish cloths
    • Pot or kettle for the brine
    • ladle

    Get the water in your canner heating while you prepare your pickles.

    Combine vinegar, 1/2 cup salt, sugar, and 2 quarts of water. Place pickling spices in a cheesecloth and place in your vinegar brine. Heat to boiling.

    Fill jars with drained cucumbers. Add:

    • 1 tsp mustard seed and
    • 1 head fresh dill or 1 tsp dill seed per pint.
    • 1 grape leaf per pint.

    Fill jars with hot pickling brine. Leave a 1/2 inch head space.

    Altitude – processing time:

    0-1000 ft – 10 minutes

    1000-6000 ft – 15 minutes

    over 6000 ft – 20 minutes

    Cabbage Chow Chow (Relish)

  • Ingredients:2 quarts shredded cabbage (about one medium head).
    1 cup sweet onions chopped fine
    1/2 cup chopped green or red bell peppers (optional)
    2 Tablespoons saltCombine chopped vegetables and sprinkle with salt. Let stand 4 to 6 hours in the refrigerator. Drain well.Combine the following ingredients and simmer 10 minutes. Use a pot large enough to put the vegetable mix in later.2 cups vinegar
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    2 teaspoons dry mustard
    1 teaspoon turmeric
    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    2 teaspoons celery seeds
    2 teaspoons mustard seedAdd vegetables to vinegar-sugar-spice mixture and simmer another 10 minutes. Bring to a boil. Then pack, boiling hot, into clean, heated canning jars, leaving  1/2 inch head space. Place canning lids and rings on jars and tighten.    Process 10 minutes (adjust according to altitude).
Category: Kitchen
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