Thursday, April 30, 2015

GARDEN UPDATE! - Photolog of the jungle

by Robin

I think there are about 36 photos from today's walk round the garden.  So many pretty things to photograph.  Every day, it keeps me busy with picking, pollinating, tying up, fertilizing and weeding.
I did not plant this sunflower.  I wanted sunflowers but never got around to buying new seeds.  A squirrel got in my plastic container and enjoyed the saved seeds.  I guess while he was out there, he pooped out a lot of seeds and now I have sunflowers in random places.  God works miracles.

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Garden 2:  Tomatoes, okra, dill, cabbage, kale, beans (in back)
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My tomatoes are over my head.
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The cucumbers have left the fence and started attaching themselves to the screen.  This is a first.
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Sweet bell peppers between the Roma tomatoes and cucumbers.  They're blooming.
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I held my camera over my head and just took a random shot from above.  Believe it or not, it isn't that chaotic.  Just healthy & happy.
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Same garden, other side.
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Again, other side of Garden 2, near the front.  Black beans, kale and okra. (weeds too)
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Cukes, pepper, tomatoes
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Garden 1.  Broccoli gone to flowering, sunflower, zucchini, squash, pineapple, cherry tomatoes.
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Front side of Garden 1.  You can see the climbing Mayflower beans (for drying).
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Better shot?  I love a manicured lawn.
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The bumpier the Mayflower bean, the better.  Labor intensive while shelling but worth it.
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Okra.  Have harvested about a dozen so far and eating them as quick as I can harvest them.  I wanted more plants but it just didn't work out. 4 is good enough, I suppose.
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My heart is happy.
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Purple cabbage still going strong.
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Okra bloom. Gorgeous. Part of the hibiscus family.
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My first sweet bell pepper looks to be like a white one!!  Cool.
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Campari tomatoes.  These are very tasty and stay on the smaller side.  Great for salads and making sundried tomatoes.

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Ahhh, I digress.  My next sunflower about to open.
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Back to tomatoes.  Cherry tomatoes are everywhere.  I even have some in the side lot from where the chickens replanted.
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Cucumbers!  Record-breaking year and still going.  76 and counting.  I'm about to pick another batch over the weekend.
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Big Mama paste tomatoes.  Like a Roma.  Gonna make sauce with these.

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I think these are Compari again.
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I have 6 female blooms on the window.  I will enjoy getting to watch them grow and see if they can hold up that weight with those tentacles.
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Dill is going to bloom.  Gorgeous.  I plan on saving some of this seed.  I don't think I'm going to use the heads the next time I make dill pickles.  I did use the fern part though last week.
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Green cabbage... needs rescuing from something.  Looks like it is eaten up by aphids too.
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Big tomatoes, dill, okra, beans, dill.
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Ok, changing gears here.  A few days ago, my hen laid a shell-less egg.  Very cool.  Soft, spongy, dry to the touch, but completely without shell and had an umbilical cord attached.  Another first.
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Ok, but she's fine.  she laid this one today.  And you can see, we got our first blue egg two days ago. :)
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It was Julia!  Congratulations honey. Caught her in the box laying a 2nd one today.
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Still waiting on her sister Margaret (or Louisa, haven't decided yet) to lay her first one.
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Seeking shade.  It was cool this morning but now it is HOT.
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So hot that Harris has decided to sunbath.  Totally chilled out.
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Her eyes were shut but then... she heard something.
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Good feeling.... gone.  Wretched dogs.
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Have a very blessed week.  Kids are heading into finals.  Many prayers are going up for them.


Thursday, April 23, 2015


by Robin

Since I was recording my dill recipe earlier, I thought maybe it would be good to have a record of my bread-n-butter ones too.  I picked these last Thurs & Friday ( 2-day process).

I picked 31 cucumbers this day.  These were rather large. (My first big harvest of the season.) I let many of them get huge like a salad cucumber.

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But, it was worth it to have so many at once and then make 10 quarts of pickles.  So, in the below picture, you can see I take off the ends and then grab my mandolin slicer for a long hour or so of slicing.  I'm not kidding when I say hour.

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I filled half of my massive canning pot.

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Then, I worked on 8 sweet bell peppers.  I had to buys these because mine aren't ready yet in the garden.

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Mandolin slice these down too.  Then, I also give them another chop by knife to knock them down in size.

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Grab a bag of onions.  These are yellow.  I think we went with 4 or 5 of them.

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Looks so purdy!

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Ok, remember that pot of cucumbers waiting on the counter??  Add the peppers and onions to them.

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Thankfully, I had plenty of room remaining at the top of the pot.  Remember, this made 10 quarts!!

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Gorgeous!   This is the stage where we added the 1/4 cup of salt.  Doesn't look like it would be enough but trust me, 1/2 cup was too much.  Last year, we iced it down and left it in the garage over night but this year, I had space to put it in my garage frig. That worked good too.

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So, the next morning, get your 'cured' cukes, peppers and onions out.  Drain and rinse the excess salt away.  This is where I take a sample of one of them. If they are unbearable salty, soak them with water to get the excess out.  Hopefully, they aren't too bad.

Below is the actual recipe.   The changes I make are cutting the salt back to 1/4, maybe 1/3 if you had a monster batch, but we actually had to soak the pickles to remove salt when we tried 1/2.  It was way too much.  Also, we cut the sugar from 5 cups to 3 cups.  Still, very sweet.

Bread and Butter Pickles 2

Boil up your brine, fill your sterile quart jars up (I prefer the wide-mouth for these since the cukes are so big.) with filling veggies, then brine.

Then, I went ahead and put the jars under a  rolling, boiling water for a good 15 minutes to sterilize the whole thing.

And that is how I turn this many cukes into....

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10 jars of bread and butter pickles!!  You can eat them the very next day.

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I took one of my jars to a picnic and people just loved them.

Happy Pickling,


by Robin

First off, let me say that this is my Uncle T's mother's recipe.  Grandma K made some awesome hot pickles.  However, today, I just wanted to make a batch of hamburger dill pickles.  

I searched various blue ribbon ones, allrecipes (which had sweet dill) and Better Home and Garden ones.  I mathematically calculated the ratios of vinegar to water, various spices, etc.  You wouldn't believe it, but I even went as so far to check the label of Mt Olive Hamburger Dill Chips!  There was something about that last batch I made that turned everybody in my family off from eating more.

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So, in the end, I ended up back with Grandma K's brine, minus the hot peppers & garlic cloves.  Many years, she used alum and I couldn't find that for a long while.  I just saw it back on shelves.  I will have to pick up some for my next batch.  She would have added 2 tsp of alum to this brine too.

10 c water
4 c  white vinegar (apple cider vinegar is ok, but I use that more for sweet pickles)
1/2 c pickling salt
Peppercorns and mustard seeds (to taste)
(2 tsp of alum)

Pack jars full of cukes.  The smaller, the better for dill chips.  We don't want to play with the seeds in our mouths as we are eating burgers and pulled pork.   Add fresh dill and your pickling crisp granuals (calcium carbonide (?)).    

Also, here's another tip.... I have tried pickling cukes for about 3 yrs now and have given up.  They come out of the garden like little disfigured balls with tails.  My plan this year was just to have a great Burpless Cucumber row and then pick those while they were small.  And, it has paid off in big dividends doing it that way.

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The dill came fresh from the garden.  Wow, it was like packing in evergreen trees!

Pour brine over cukes and get out the air bubbles.  Then, seal up and throw in the big pot for sterilizing.

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Anyhow, I liked that some of the recipes had peppercorns and mustard seed for flavoring the brine.  Toss those in the jar with the brine!

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I sterilized my jars at a full rolling boil for 10 min.  (I saw everything from 5 min to 15, so I took the average.)    I can hear them suctioning down in the kitchen right now!   I love those purple lids.  I hope they offer a different color every year so I can keep my years straight.  Sometimes that sharpie marks wipe off.

Grandma K left notes saying to always allow your dill pickles to set for 8 wks before eating.  Bread-n- Butters can be eaten the next day but dills are better when they set up.

I will be seeing you 'guys' on June 23rd!

Happy pickling!