Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rosie's Cinnamon Candy Cucumbers

I get so excited when I find a food that is totally unexpected and excites me so much I can't wait to try it and make it myself! I especially love it when I can connect that recipe to a special memory or person. Such a recipe is what I want to share with you today!

A couple Saturdays ago, I was at church picking up my dishes from that evening's VBS fellowship when a friend was at the table nibbling something I had not seen on the table earlier but piqued my curiosity. Those pretty little red things caught my eye. They looked like red celery, had the crunch of water chestnuts, and had the lightly sweet flavor of a gentle cinnamon. I knew then and there I would would have to go on a embarrassingly relentless search for the person who brought the little jewels and figure out what they were and how they were made. As fate would have it, when I was ready to leave, I was blocked in and had to go back in to wait until I was able to leave. Would you believe when I went back in, I sat down right in front of the dear lady who had actually made my newly discovered gems?! I was so excited! Her name is Rosie, and I have come to know her as a sweet friend over the last few years. I enjoy her company so very much! I have enjoyed every minute I've ever spent in her presence. I have always left a visit with her happy and cheerful. She spent the next few days kindly and patiently answering my many questions.

Today, I present to you Cinnamon Candy Cucumbers! The following is the picture of the original recipe as Rosie sent it to me. I changed the name as a personal preference, added a couple details, and changed the processing time in my directions below, but the recipe ingredients and measurements are the same.

Cinnamon Candy Cucumbers 
2 gallons of slicing cucumbers (about 10 lbs)
2 c pickling lime
2 gallons water
1 c vinegar
1 T alum
2 c vinegar
2 c water
10 c sugar
3 10oz bags red hot cinnamon candy


Day one: Prepare 2 gallons of large cucumbers by peeling, seeding, and cutting into 1/4" slices. 

Soak overnight in a mixture of 2 c lime and 2 gallons of water. 

The lime will settle to the bottom and is normal. The recipe didn't say to, but I stirred mine around every so often. 

Day two:
Pour off lime water and wash.

You want to wash
Well to remove the
Soak two hours in cold water. I added some ice since the water coming through my pipes doesn't get very cold without running a long time during the summer.

Drain that water again. Then mix 1 cup vinegar, 1 T alum and enough water to cover cucumbers. Soak two hours and drain.

Just before the two hour soak is over, mix and boil 2 cups vinegar, 2 cups water, 10 cups sugar, and 3 10oz. bags of candies.

Pour the hot liquid over the cucumbers. Not all my candies would completely dissolve. I finally gave up and poured them over the cucumbers. They eventually dissolved on their own.

It looks a lot different the next morning!

Day 3 and Day 4:
Place a large pan under a colander, and drain the cucumbers.

Bring the drained liquid to a boil, and pour the hot liquid back over the cucumbers. 

Day five:
Drain the cucumbers and reserve the liquid the same as above. Pack the cucumbers in pint jars leaving 1/4" headspace. 

Bring the reserved liquid to a boil and pour over the cucumbers leaving a 1/4" headspace.

Wipe the rims clean with a damp paper towel or cloth, and seal with a flat lid and ring. Process in a rolling water hot water bath for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the water ten minutes before removing them from the water to avoid the liquid siphoning from the jars.

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!
*To ensure the safety of your food, follow the guidelines given by the USDA. I do not know if this recipe has not been tested or approved. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Peeling Tomatoes

Good day, reader friends!

I have several things to share here on the blog with you! The garden and canning are keeping me so busy, I just can't seem to find enough time to get posts written! That's a good problem to have, though! This is a short post I knew I could squeeze in before the children wake up.

Yesterday, I tried my hand at Black Bean and Corn Salsa! I cannot wait to share the recipe with you! As I was taking pictures to prepare for that post, I realized I was going to have to do something to shorten that post some. That's how the idea for today's post was birthed.

One of the key steps in making that salsa is to peel the tomatoes. I have several friends who were never taught their way around a kitchen and have been so busy living their life, they have not had the opportunity to teach themselves. They enjoy having basic tasks broken down into easy to understand steps. This post is for them and my reader friends who find themselves in the same boat. I know I am grateful for my friends, Barbara Ann and Lisa, who came and taught me when I made my first batch of salsa and spaghetti sauce!

The first step is to set a large pot of water to boil on the stove. The water only needs to be deep enough to submerge your tomatoes. Next, gather and wash your tomatoes.

Continue by cutting the core from the tomatoes with a small paring knife. I also like to lightly score an X through the skin on the bottom of the tomato with my knife. It seems to make the skin split more easily in the hot water.

When all the tomatoes have been cored, it's time to drop the tomatoes into your boiling water. It's important to wait until the water is at a rolling boil before dropping the tomatoes. I drop the tomatoes into the water three or four at a time. It's important to only do a few at a time to be able to pull them out of the hot water quickly. To remove them, I used a fine mesh strainer with a handle, but a slotted spoon can also be used.

Leave the tomatoes for 30-45 seconds or until the skin starts to split.

Immediately drop them into cold water to quickly cool them back down. Somehow I managed to not get a picture of them cooling in the sink. You can catch a glimpse of it in the picture above, but I'm sure you get the idea. It's just a little cold water in the sink with a little ice to make sure the water is nice and cold. Again, the water doesn't have to be deep, just deep enough to submerge the tomatoes. It doesn't take long for them to cool. I was pulling one batch out of the sink as I was putting one batch from the boiling water in. Once your red (or green) globes of yumminess have cooled, move them to a strainer to drain.

The green tomato is a ripe. It is a
Green variety from Baker Creek
Called Green Vernissage. They are
So yummy!

Here you can see how the skins are already pulling away from the tomatoes. That is exactly what you want to see. Now all that is left to do is gently slip and peel the skins from the tomatoes.

There you have it, my friends! Nice and easy and quick! Before I leave you, I would like to add one last tip. Make sure your tomatoes are nice and ripe. It makes this process much easier. I have done it with tomatoes that weren't as ripe, and it didn't work as well.

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!💕

Monday, May 1, 2017

Pickled Rat's Tail Radishes

Good day, reader friends!

The garden season canning has begun! I tried a new plant this year called Rat's Tail Radish. This plant doesn't produce traditional radishes. It is grown for the seed pods. I have tried them raw, and they are very tasty but hot. I grew them specifically for pickling. My husband loves our hot pickled okra, so I thought these would be fun to try.

I started by harvesting all the pods from my plants.

Next, I brought them in and rinsed them in the sink in cold water twice and placed them in a colander to dry a bit. Because of my woodchips, they weren't dirty at all, but some of the bloom petals had fallen on some and dried on the pods. The rinsing gave me the ability to remove the petals easily.

While the pods drained and dried off a bit, I started heating my jars and prepared the brine.

While all that heated, I prepped my work station and garlic cloves.

When the brine was hot, I removed the jars from the canner and added a couple cloves of garlic to each jar.

Each jar was then packed with the pods. I tried to get the pods in the jars as snugly as I could. This part was a lot trickier and a lot more time consuming than I expected because the pods are so tender and crisp. My advice would be to just get them in the jars any way you can.

You can also add 1/4 teaspoon of pickle crisp if you would like.

Technically, there should be a half inch of headspace.  I didn't get too fussy with it. Once hot liquid is added, things shrink. Things float. Levels change as pods are pushed down or allowed to float up. And since we are speaking of adding hot liquid, that's just what I did next. I added the hot brine to a half inch headspace as best I could.

Next, I used the end of a plastic fork to remove as many air bubbles as I could. The rims were then wiped clean, and the jars were sealed with a flat lid and ring.

The jars were then placed in the canner and waterbathed for 10 minutes.

After ten minutes in the rolling water bath, the heat was turned off and I allowed the water to become completely still before removing the jars. Doing this has significantly cut down on siphoning of liquids from my jars. Finally, the jars were removed and placed in a draft free place to cool. Jars should be left undisturbed for 12-24 hours.

Pickled Rat's Tail Radishes 
4t coriander seeds
4t yellow mustard seeds
2t cumin seeds
4t whole black peppercorns
2t ground turmeric
1t red pepper flakes
1/2 c sugar
8c apple cider vinegar
4c water
2 cloves garlic, peeled, for each jar
Fresh radish pods
Pickle crisp, optional

Sterilize jars if desired. Place all the ingredients except the garlic cloves, radish pods, and pickle crisp in a large stock pot. Bring it to a boil. While the brine is heating, prepare garlic cloves and work station. Remove the jars from the canner, place two cloves of garlic in each jar, and pack tightly with radish pods. Add 1/4 of a teaspoon of pickle crisp if desired. When brine comes up to a boil, fill each jar to 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims clean, and add a flat lid and ring. Water bath jars for ten minutes. Remove jars from the canner, and place the jars in a draft free area for 12-24 hours. 

I hope you find something new and interesting with which to experiment this growing season, dear friends!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

*To ensure the safety of your home canned food, be sure to follow the safe canning guidelines issued by the USDA.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

How to Freeze Strawberries

Good day, all my favorite reader friends!

Who here loves strawberries? We sure do! Last week I was so blessed to be able to purchase ten pounds of organic strawberries from a local grower. You can't imagine how excited I was!

After stopping to pick up some freezer bags, I came straight home and got to work putting my little beauties away!

I still run into people who express their appreciation that I break things down step by step to help others learn. As I was doing strawberries, it dawned on me that maybe someone out there has never put strawberries away in the freezer and would appreciate a simple explanation. So here goes!

Before you start, you will need a large colander (to place rinsed berries in), a towel (to pat berries dry with), two large bowls (one for dried berries and one for chopped berries), one small bowl (for trimmed berry tops), a cutting board, a knife, and quart sized zip top freezer bags.

My first step was to rinse my berries well since they had come straight from the berry patch and pat them dry. It is VERY important to remember not to rinse them until you are ready to work them. Once they are dry, place them in a large bowl.

Next, remove the green, leafy top. Toss the top into the small bowl (or the trash can). Mine went to the chickens when I was done.

Place the chopped berries in the other large bowl. Continue until all the berries are chopped.

The next step is optional, but it's what I prefer to do with my berries.  When all the berries are chopped, I rinse and dry the big bowl the whole berries were in. Then I transfer some of the berries to the empty bowl. Once I have a small layer of berries in the bottom, I lightly sprinkle with a natural sweetener or sugar. If you don't want to pre-sweeten your berries, skip to the bagging instructions.

I keep layering until, all the berries are done. Then, I stir them all together.

Finally, I measure out two cups, and place them into a zip top freezer bags.

Placing the bags in the freezer flattened this way helps the berries freeze more quickly if the bags are spread out, and it make for easier, neater storage once the berries are frozen and the bags are stacked.

There you go! Easy peasy, lemon squeezey! Heehee! Now, the first taste of spring can be enjoyed all year long! It should be noted that I kept out enough unsweetened berries to make strawberry jelly. Watch for that post in the future!

I hope this post helps someone out there!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

2017 Garden Update

I love my God and Savior! When I am working outside in the garden, I can't help but feel so blessed and thankful as the little birds light on the fence, arching their little necks this way and that as they curiously watch what I am doing while others flit around and chirp with them while at the bird feeders just behind them all while even others are singing beautiful songs in the trees just beyond the garden. It is such a peaceful, beautiful time spent there. If I go outside early enough or stay out late enough, the whippoorwills' calls fill the air. I am so thankful for the life God has given me. Even if my plants don't do well, to spend time in my garden is worth the effort.

I have been working so much there, I haven't stopped to update here. It is still dark outside now. The roosters are crowing and the whippoorwills are squeezing in a few calls. I figured I better go ahead and post or another day was going to pass before I gave an update.

This year we added another thick layer of woodchips and expanded the garden all the way to the fence on all sides. That was hard work with a shovel and wheelbarrow! My little boy worked so hard helping me! He and I covered most of the original area over a few days before my husband came home. Then my husband helped me finish. Boy, were we ever grateful to be done! I still prefer doing that than pulling up weeds for hours upon endless hours!

We even added a little area
Outside the fence for flowers.

I waited a couple weeks until I couldn't stand it any longer. I cheated and bought some plants to put in the garden. I normally like to start my own from seed, but since I didn't think I was going to have a garden, I didn't have any plants ready. I got spinach, kale, chives, leeks, onions, and three different types of lettuce. I even got potatoes; I guess, technically, those were seeds! In those couple weeks I was patiently impatiently waiting, I was able to order some seeds. I did use my seeds to sow two different types of radishes and two different types of carrots.

I ordered a few seeds from other
Companies, but Baker Creek
remains my favorite! Can you tell?

As those grew, I started tomatoes, peppers, herbs, cantaloupes, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, and marigolds. I experimented and made a Turbo Booster for my plants. This will be my first year using anything other than Azomite on my garden. *edit: my husband did use something for his corn last year. I had forgotten about that, but then that part of the garden didn't have chips.* I had my soil tested and was surprised how much just having the woodchips has improved my soil, but because the original soil was pretty much dead, acidic sand, I realized through lots and lots of reading and watching videos that I need to feed life into my soil. Everything I put into my Turbo Booster is organic and designed to feed the soil and plants. You can see the picture below for the ingredients I put in it. After making it and using it on my seedlings, I discovered Biochar and my need to raise my soil pH. I am using oyster shell for that. I decided against the high calcium lime, and I couldn't find potash.

We had so many cold spells that prevented me from putting the plants in the garden, I didn't think I would ever get them hardened off and planted! All the peppers, tomatoes, basil, and lemon balm got so big, I had to put them in pots. That is the first year, I have had to do that. It's also the first year, I have had really healthy, sturdy seedlings. They got so big in the waiting process I thought I was going to have to put them in even bigger pots!

Thankfully, though, I have been able to get them in the garden without having to do that. As of now, all the cucamelons, tomato, and pepper seedlings are planted and surviving. I planted my cucumber, cantaloupe, squash, and zucchini seedlings after checking the forecast in several places to make sure there was no chance of frost a few days before Easter. Every place I looked had forecasted temps in the mid forties. I'm sure you can guess what happened. It got so cold even the water in my water hose froze! Grrr! Lol! Only two bush cucumber plants survived. Soooo...all the seeds for those seedlings I lost have been sown directly in the garden along with the three different types of okra, yellow and red water melons, gourds and cape gooseberries. This morning my husband helped me prepare the soil for four different types of pumpkin seeds I will sow in two weeks. The potatoes and corn are also growing really well.

Getting ready to transplant! The
The plants in the back are onions
I am letting go to seed.

Rat's Tail Radishes 

We are trying the Florida Weave
To trellis our tomatoes this year.

Believe it or not, my peppers,
Some tomatoes, corn, and a
Cucumber bush are in this photo.

Rat's Tail Radishes
Are producing!

Yukon Gold potatoes 

In addition to vegetables, I am attempting flowers again. So far, I only have two different types of sunflower seeds planted. I did find two rose bushes on clearance for less than three dollars, so I also have my first rose bushes planted! We had a fig tree we planted this year, but an armadillo decided he needed to dig right beside it and knock it over. I still don't know if it will survive. We are also waiting to see if our pecan trees will survive our crazy conditions.

The fun continues! I will post updates as I am able. I am praying there are a lot of eating and canning from my garden in the days ahead! What do you have in your garden? I would love to hear what you have been up to!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!