Soldiers of flavor

For the past three days I’ve been picking and saving tomatoes so that I could do a large batch of fire roasted salsa.

Today was that day. It began with picking and washing tomatoes of all shapes, types and colors. We’ve got paste tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, pear tomatoes, striped tomatoes and that about it.

Then I put the tomatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet with parchment paper. The tomatoes roasted in a 450 F degree oven, then I blasted them with the broiler to blacken and blister their skins. This is the secret to the sauce.

I got 12 pints today. My family can easily inhale a pint of salsa as a pre-dinner snack, so 12 pints is less than 2 weeks worth of salsa. Kind of weak, but I’m happy that we canned our own homemade salsa this year. It may not fill our family’s yearly salsa needs 100% but it’s a step toward self sufficiency, and that’s what matters.

Next year, though, my salsa ambitions are going to scare you. Who wouldn’t love knowing that they have access to a fresh new jar of organic, home grown, home processed fire-roasted salsa 365 days of the year. At 12 jars per canning session, that’s a lotta math and a whole lot more tomatoes.

365 divided by 12 pints = about 30 days

This means that for the entire month of August, I’d have to can a dozen jars of salsa every day.

Road trippin’ with my friend, Mme. Cherry Tomato

Yesterday, amid the smoke, fires, destruction, and global pandemic I harvested about 20 pounds of tomatoes from our 6-row kitchen garden. This is the largest tomato harvest of the season so far!

Gardens bring hope, that’s true. But they also bring something that runs a really close second: fire-roasted salsa. And now, because of a couple hours effort, our family has 16 pints of nature’s gift to tortilla chips.

In yesterday’s batch of salsa I carefully altered the recipe (which your not supposed to do because it’s risky with water bath canning + acid levels). I subbed our gypsy peppers instead of jalapenos (we didn’t plant any hot peppers this year). I subbed our flat leaf parsley instead of cilantro (which would have required another trip to the store–no gracias). And I subbed lemon juice for lime juice because we had lemon juice open in the fridge.

I’m hoping that in just a few days we’ll have another huge, 20 lb. haul of vine-ripened tomatoes. I promise to make more salsa!

Pear sauce on oatmeal

It ain’t pretty, but it’s breakfast.

This morning while canning chunky pear sauce and talking to Josh about our kitchen cabinets, I discovered this ugly but delicious combination: oatmeal and pear sauce (with a splash of whole milk).

This pear sauce takes the place of any and all sweeteners for oatmeal. Buh-bye brown sugar. In fact, pear sauce is not only crazy levels of sweet, but it’s also gratefully loaded with fiber, which helps slow down the digestion–which is a great thing when sugar is involved. Sugar + fiber=nature’s way of keeping you healthy. Thanks, Mme. Nature!

I obsessively adore this chunky pear sauce! It immortalizes the fleeting flavor of fresh picked pears and entombs it in a glistening glass sarcophagus. It has a bold grittiness, toothsome appeal, and assertive texture that is missing from sleepy old Mott’s applesauce. I’m not even sure that pear sauce is commercially available, which makes it a billion percent more desirable.

“Rah-rah for pear sauce!” said the homemaker, as she bottled and preserved 16 pints of the golden, lumpy, half-pureed nectar . The sun hung golden in the sky, like a ripe pear.

Today I canned 16 pints of pear sauce (it’s just like apple sauce, but with pears!) Half the jars were smooth pear sauce, half were chunky. Hannah helped me wash and sort the ripe pears. It took a couple hours to get through all that fruit Just for fun we had a jar of chunky pear sauce with dinner tonight, and it was gone within minutes.

I still have more pears that are ripening, as well as apples and plums. What a blessing all this fruit is! Thanks to our neighbors for such a beautiful, bountiful harvest!!

I’ve been in food production mode this summer. Here are some of the fruits of my labors! Everything is made by hand, with lots of love.

All of the items in this box will be coming with us to Rexburg for our meetup with my parents. The contents will be divided between my parents and my siblings.

I went and picked more greens because I want to try making green powder. It’s a blend of dehydrated greens that are powdered in a food processor or blender. They can be added to smoothies and…that’s about it.

To preserve the nutritional integrity of the greens, they can be dehydrated on low heat or air dried.

The greens that I’m using are flat leaf Italian parsley, curly parsley, Swiss chard, and kale. I’d love to add more herbs, but my herbs are languishing this year. My fernleaf dill was eaten by slugs, and my sage and oregano aren’t off the ground yet. My chives died, too. Also, my rosemary is struggling with self-worth issues.

I picked 1 pound 12 ounces of greens. By the time they’re dried, they’ll weigh around 2 ounces, I’m guessing.

For the last few weeks Josh has been threatening to pull out the kale if we don’t start using it. The truth is that by the time I’m done making dinner, the last thing I want to do is harvest a fistful of raw ingredient, dirty up another pan and prep a side dish–I’m just mentally ready to sit down and relax. Truly, I LOVE having kale with dinner. When Josh comes in from work with a bouquet of kale and pulls out a pan, I am so grateful.

Late last night as we sat around the table with the kids, Josh started looking up ways to preserve kale. (No way I’m canning it–that’s gross) He suggested freezing it raw or blanching it first then freezing it. Less work is better, so I ran out to the garden in the dark and grabbed some to wash and freeze so we could test it out.

This morning I cooked the frozen kale, which didn’t even need to be defrosted. I put a little water in the pan, threw in the frozen kale, steamed it, then quickly and buttered/salted it. It was PERFECT!

Today I picked, portioned, and processed 2 lbs 12 ounces of kale (both varieties that we have). I froze them in 3 ounce chunks, wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in a freezer bag. I was able to get 9 three ounce pouches of washed, deveined and ready-to-steam kale.

Today was a big day.

The Case tractor was down for a couple months to fix the clutch. The clutch fork partially broke and no longer worked. I scoured eBay and found a replacement. I also scoured eBay to fins replacement oil seals for the hydraulic pump. When we tried to put the tractor back together, we didn’t get the hydraulic shaft splines lines up and warped the clutch pressure plate. After two failed attempted to buy a replacement, I finally got one on the third try for $270. This time, we took the access cover off the side of the torque tube and put things back together very carefully, checking frequently as we went, and it worked. Today, we finished putting all the other pieces back on, and we started it up and drive it around. I considered replacing the clutch disc while we had the tractor split, but a replacement is almost as expensive as the pressure plate, so I didn’t.

Next, we need to replace one of the rear wheel rims, which has rusted out. Our neighbor Jon might be able to find one. We also need to fix leaks in the front hydraulic pump and left brake assembly.

Also today, the bees came. The boys worked hard the past few weeks to assemble the beehive, and today we got the nuc. The nuc cost $120, and we’ve spent another couple hundred on the hive and equipment. We probably won’t be able to harvest any honey the first year.

Heather pressure cooked 50 pounds of chicken and 7 pounds of beef this week. She also dehydrated about a quart of celery, carrots, mushrooms, and onions.

We are considering getting rabbits to breed for meat.