Friday, November 4, 2016

Canning Tomatoes

Our neighbor gave us bags and bags of tomatoes this summer. You've already seen how I used some of them to make a chili sauce and a spiced tomato soup. But don't overlook the value of canning plain tomatoes! Think of how many recipes you make that feature diced tomatoes. Same idea, just with home grown tomatoes.

I used the recipe featured in So Easy to Preserve by the Cooperative Extension of the University of Georgia. I used the hot pack method for canning tomatoes in their own juice. You process pints or quarts 85 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Canning Spiced Tomato Soup

Today we are canning Spiced Tomato Soup. This is another recipe from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. I freely admit that I read this recipe wrong when I started. I thought it said "Spicy Tomato Soup" not "Spiced Tomato Soup." So the resulting product was far different than what I expected. That being said, I tried the little bit that was left over and it was pretty tasty. Reminded me of a spiced cider thanks to the cloves in the recipe. 

This recipe features tomatoes, onions, carrots, cloves, garlic and sugar among others, For the full recipe, see the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. This recipe is processed 20 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Canning Chili Sauce

As I mentioned, one thing I did plenty of this summer was can. You've already seen the results of some of my canning - green beans and blue Hubbard squash. Today I bring you chili sauce.

Another thing our neighbor had an abundance of was tomatoes. Normally, I myself plant about 20 tomato plants in my garden but with getting married and moving, I knew I wouldn't have time this summer. Luckily, our neighbor planted enough for his family and ours.

My DH and I really like chili in the winter so when I saw a recipe for chili sauce in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving I knew I had to make some.

Chili Sauce
from Ball's Blue Book Guide to Preserving
Yield : About 6 pints

4 quarts chopped, peeled, cored tomatoes (about 24 large)
2 cups chopped onions (about 2 medium)
2 cups chopped sweet red peppers (about 4 medium)
1 hot red pepper, finely chopped
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons Ball salt
3 tablespoons Ball Mixed Pickling Spice
1 tablespoon celery seed
1 tablespoon mustard seed
2 1/2 cups vinegar

Combine tomatoes, onions, peppers, sugar and salt in a large saucepot. Simmer 45 minutes. Tie whole spices in a spice bag. Add spice bag to tomato mixture. Simmer until reduced one-half. As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Add vinegar and simmer to desired thickness. Remove spice bag. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Adjust two piece caps. Process 15 minutes in a boiling water canner.

I advise any one wanting to can to familiarize themselves with the basics of canning including proper jar sterilization, proper tools, different processing methods, etc. The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving is a great beginners resource. You can find these at several retailers and online.

I haven't tried any of this yet so I can't attest to its edibleness but we have high hopes!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Canning Blue Hubbard Squash

A friend of mine called and asked if I wanted to come help her can some blue Hubbard squash. While I had no idea what a blue Hubbard squash was or how you would even use blue Hubbard squash I said yes. It's hard for me to pass up some girl talk and a new canning adventure all wrapped up in one session.

Turns out a blue Hubbard squash is a rather ugly looking fruit! Or as Bonnie Plants puts it "this squash is known by its huge size, funky shape, blue-gray color and very hard skin that makes it especially long lasting in winter storage. The meat inside is orange, sweet, flavorful and fine grained. Great for baking, pies and soups." Who knew?!?!

These bad boys were a lot of prep work (I think now I know why my friend wanted help!). They are not kidding when they say the skin is very hard. I think a meat cleaver would've worked better for splitting it open than a knife... But we finally figured out a system and set up a sort of two person assembly line.

Since the Hubbard squash is a winter squash the canning books recommend that you follow the same preparation procedures and processing times for cubed pumpkin. Turns out you can also substitute Hubbard squash for pumpkin in most recipes as well.

We used the hot pack method and processed out pints in a pressure canner at 10 pounds of pressure for 55 minutes. (If you'd like to see more pictures of a pressure canner see my prior post on pressure canning green beans.) Since I did half the work, my friend was gracious enough to offer me half the results. I didn't take half but I did take about 6 pints. I gave one to my parents and have used one so far. I used it to make a pumpkin citrus bundt cake - obviously substituting the Hubbard squash for the pumpkin. It was only okay but I don't blame the squash. I blame the recipe.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Pressure Canning Green Beans

One thing I've found myself doing this summer is canning. I've canned more this summer than I've ever canned before. One reason for this is that we purchased a pressure canner and our next door neighbor gave us bags upon bags of green beans. (We have great neighbors!) While canning green beans isn't hard it is time consuming.

I used the green bean recipe in So Easy To Preserve by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. If you live in Georgia, you can pick these up at your county Coop office. If you do not live in Georgia, you can order your copy online. UGA is also home to the National Center for Home Food Preservation. They have a very informative website

I used the hot pack method and processed the beans for 20 minutes (pint size jar) or 25 minutes (quart size jar) at 10 pounds of pressure. Here are some pictures of the process. Please, for safety reasons, always follow canning directions!!

Our neighbor's green beans have finally exhausted themselves but we are left with 14 quarts and 3 pints that we put up. Not to mention the 3 quarts and 1 pint we've already eaten. :)

And here's my little helper who thinks he always has to be under his Mama's feet. Especially if she's in the kitchen...

Friday, September 30, 2016

DIY Wedding Touches - Small Details Make The Day All Your Own

It's been quite some time since my last post. I'm not going to lie, I don't have any awesome new furniture for my readers. I suppose I've been rather busy here lately. But Ms. A, "What are you busy doing if it's not working on furniture?" you ask. I got hitched!! Therefore, please forgive the tardiness with my posting. Courting, engagement, wedding planning, honeymooning and being a newlywed has taken up much of my time.

Knowing me, I did manage to squeeze a few DIY items into my wedding. Surprisingly though, I didn't do a total DIY wedding. While I think that would have been a lot of fun, I also think it would have been a LOT of stress. Instead, we chose to get married at a full service venue where all I had to do was show up! I was able to convince the venue to let me throw in a few DIY touches to make the day truly ours.

We chose to forego the traditional wedding cake and opted to have a pie and cheesecake bar instead. (If any bride is leaning this way I highly recommend it. Ours was a huge hit with our guests!!) However, we did still have a small wedding cake that we could shove in each other's faces. I mean - serve each other lovingly. I made the topper for our small cake. I purchased two small wooden birds from Hobby Lobby and had the future husband drill a hole in the bottom of each. I used a wood burner and an alphabet set to burn the word "WE" on one bird and "DO" on the other bird. Then I stuck a piece of wire in the hole so we could stick them in the cake. I think they turned out adorable even if I couldn't get the wire completely straight!!

We didn't register anywhere but since we had several of our guests ask us about gifts we advised those people that a gift wasn't expected but if they wanted to give us something we would prefer a gift card to Home Depot (lots of upcoming house projects!). I then made a gift card receptacle for guests to place the cards in. My parents found a vintage look luggage train case at an antique store and I strung a "cards" banner across the opening. To make the banner, I found a pendant template online and I used the template to cut out the pendants from some Mr. & Mrs. scrapbook paper that I found at Hobby Lobby. I then stenciled the letters on to the pendants, used a small hole punch to put holes in the corners and used a thin piece of twine to string them all together. Here's the final result.

For our guest book I was lucky enough to find a cute sign online that just happened to have our colors of mint and peach. I printed it out on the color printer and stuck it in a frame from the dollar store. Perfect and took less than 10 minutes start to finish!

Lastly, since our wedding was held in a barn in the country, we also made a pallet sign to stick by the side of the road so our guests wouldn't miss the driveway. The future husband grabbed a pallet from his work. Yes, it had been used but that just added to the appeal! I found some very large stencils at Michael's and bought a small bottle of mint colored acrylic paint. I stenciled on the letters and voila!

Our wedding day was wonderful thanks to our venue and these small personal touches just made it all the more special!