Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Apple Butter - or - Overcoming the Fear of Canning

On Sunday, feeling domestic and a bit brave, I decided to get out our new freecycled canning pot and make some homemade apple butter from the apples I had bought on a whim the previous day. Now, I've been interested in canning for quite some time, but I've always been a bit hesitant. Knowing the principles of homebrewing, I'm not sure why I continued to fear the process of preserving food, but now having the tools to do so, including the Ball Blue Book, I no longer had any excuse not to just go for it. I peeled and sliced four pounds of apples, and simmered them in a little water until they were nice and soft, then put them in a food processor. To that I added sugar and spices, and let it gently bubble for about four hours until it was just the right consistency. By that point the jars were done sterilizing in the dishwasher and were keeping warm, the lids were simmering in a small pot of water, and the canning pot was starting to reach a boil. The apple butter filled six half-pint jars, which went into the boiling water for ten minutes. When I pulled them out, I heard the reassuring pop pop pop of the lids and I knew everything would be ok :-) The Gardener and I sampled some of what was left in the pot, and it was delicious! One jar we will keep for ourselves and the rest will make some nice Christmas gifts, but five jars is not nearly enough to go around, so I'll be keeping my eye out for another fun recipe to make. Hopefully next year we will have enough of a harvest from our garden that we'll be canning some of our own vegetables. I'm thinking salsa!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Garlic on an Autumn Morning

Now that it's November, and the risk of scaring off any Halloween vampires has passed, I took advantage of my extra hour (given the fact that I forgot to change the clocks until after I woke up this morning) to finally plant our garlic. If all goes well, we should get about 70 heads of garlic come sometime around July. We ordered two varieties of organically grown garlic - Transylvanian and Romanian Red - however the Transylvanian was back ordered and then replaced with Russian Red Toch. Romanian Red is an heirloom hardneck porcelain variety, which should have large cloves and a strong flavor, and should store very well. Russian Red Toch is a softneck artichoke variety which should have small to medium cloves, a flavor mild enough to enjoy raw, be ready to harvest early, and be able to be stored for 5 to 6 months. My big hope now is that the squirrels don't dig up all the cloves before the ground freezes. You wouldn't think they'd be interested, but they've been eating everything from pumpkins to jalapenos, so I wouldn't put it past them. I've never planted anything this late in the year before, but I have to say that I really enjoyed having one last chance to get outside and put my hands in the cool dirt before winter. Soon enough there will be snow on the ground and we'll be knee deep in seed catalogs planning for next year!