Pizza Sauce and other tomato canning

Today was another day of working on the tomatoes. I looked back and the last post on tomato work was done on Oct. 2, 2017 and I wrote out the soup recipe at that time. I think today’s soup was much better, but that is probably my opinion. Today we took every last ripe tomato off the table, out of the boxes and out of the sleds. There is a post back someplace in this past month that shows how we were running out of space to store the tomatoes that were picked but not quite ripe, and so we grabbed the long plastic sleds from the garage and used them. It was a great way to transport them too.

I am happy to report that by the end of today, the sleds have been emptied and all of the tomatoes are in the house on the extra table under newspapers waiting to ripen. So far we have not had to throw very many away, which is nice. Each year several spoil with the ripen them in the house method, but the alternative is to allow them to freeze outside and they are all lost. I think this is a better idea.

So, I should have done this canning yesterday, but after Thursday’s marathon of house cleaning, I was not moving too well. Today we also had one extra hand as Paulina was home. I started the day with a batch of bread but that didn’t turn out so well this time. Paulina ended up cutting it into cubes and tomorrow she will brown them into croutons. We will see how that turns out. I tried it one other time with very little luck, but knowing her it will be great.

When we were finished with the tomatoes today, we had 5 quarts of juice, 4 quarts and 1 pint of soup, and 16 half pints and 3 pints of pizza sauce. This is the biggest batch we have done this year. James and I figure we should be at about 3 or 4 more times of processing tomatoes before the year is over. As for the soup recipe, it is on the post from Oct. 2. I looked and looked for my recipe for the pizza sauce and could not find anything. I looked at the single jar of it left in the pantry and found I had done those in 2015, so I was sure that I had posted it on the blog, but no luck there. I finally went to the Ball Blue Book and checked, and the only thing I could find was tomato sauce, so we went with that.

Truthfully, I have come up with my own concoction based on what I know about canning. The issue is that I never have a firm handle on how many ounces or pints or gallons of tomato liquid I am dealing with when I start. It is always sort of a hit or miss sort of thing. I wish that I had a way to measure the level of acid in what is in the pot, but I usually add lemon juice just to be sure of hitting enough acid to prevent any sort of spoilage or sickness.

Soup, pizza sauce and juice. The bottom of the sign says “seasoned with love”

For this sauce, which turned out to be 5 1/2 quarts of liquid, I used 1/8 cup of canning salt, not quite 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of lemon juice, about 1 Tablespoon of garlic salt and 1/2 cup of Italian seasoning. We used only Roma tomatoes for this batch. Throughout the entire process I kept pouring off the runny liquid and blended and sieved out the seeds of that and poured it into jars until we had exactly 5 quarts. Paulina peeled the Roma tomatoes, while I peeled the Celebrity and the Big Boys. Those that I peeled were blended separately and put into their own stock pot to make the soup. I also took the liquid off the ones I peeled, and added it to the juice. I think this is the first year that I have planted the Celebrity variety, and I find them to be a bit sweeter. The juice from them has been fantastic. I hope to plant more of them next year and a few less of the Romas, though they produce so much better. Actually for me the Big Boys don’t seem to produce very well, but I probably don’t feed them as much as they need. I will have to try some different methods with them. I also might try rotating where the stands go. I have some stands that seem to always grow smaller plants. I wonder if it has something to do with the medal that they leach into the soil? I guess that is enough of my tomato making story for one day. I need to get to working on my message for tomorrow. The gospel scripture is on rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. Not sure how to drag that out for 10 minutes, but I will have to find something. Catch you later!!

Sunrise and definitive proof of fall

Leaves on the ground.

A few days ago I posted a picture of the ash trees all dressed up in their orange and yellow leaves. Yesterday when we came home from school the leaves were all on the ground as the trees had emptied themselves for winter, I forgot to take a picture of the later until last evening just before is got too dark. I was upstairs in my room getting ready to sit down to watch the latest episode of the 13th season of The Voice, and I stepped outside to take this picture first. This would be a great weekend to have grandchildren over to the house, but instead we are all busy running one place or another. It is also getting harder and harder to just pack up either set of them and drag them to this place for a weekend. Hopefully by the time James and I are 81 and 80, it will be easier to transport them than us. We also have not made any headway in our efforts to move things around here to open up more room for overnight guests. Maybe this winter when we have nothing better to do in the dark of night. HA! I am sure by that time we will be baking something or canning something else or even putting out the seedlings for the garden next summer. This past week has been one of picking the rest of the garden and dragging everything inside to the house or garage or wherever it fits, which means the van gets to stand outside like an unloved child.

We made a little room on the table inside the house after when we did the last batch of tomatoes on Monday night. We started as soon as we got home and ended the evening fairly early–8:30 ish. The results were: 1 qt and 1 pint of juice, 4 qts. of spaghetti sauce and 3 qts. of soup, plus a 3/4 filled qt of each of those last two. Those have been put in the fridge and will have to go to the top of the menu real soon. I don’t understand quite how they happened. I measured out the spaghetti sauce into a quart jar before putting them into a kettle. Perhaps that reduces as you warm it. Learned something there. As for the soup, I wasn’t quite sure on that, and I should have known it would expand with the additions of butter, sugar (that always adds volume) and then the flour for thickening.

As I sit at the kitchen table to write this the sun is streaming through the east window nearly blinding me. I have been sneaking peeks at it rising almost like a space ship at lift off. It’s rays are so intense this morning they seem to blur in the cool fall morning. Interestingly, the winds came up with the sun. I was outside earlier to take these pictures of the pre-sunrise, and I don’t remember being bothered by a breeze. By the way they are in order as you see them from left to right.

Sunrise 10-11-17

Later I stepped out onto the east deck to snap the final shot (and the door closed and locked behind me, and I did not have on the large coat I wore earlier) I saw the branches moving on the trees then felt the wind as I ran around the house to get to the garage door and inside. All in all, it is a very pretty morning her in the northern part of South Dakota. I pray today for those recovering from the hurricanes, the earthquakes and now going through the horrors of the wildfires in California. May God see fit to bring them some rain to quench the demons racing through that area. I think we will be singing “Showers of Blessing” this Sunday in our way of asking God for some respite.

A little garden work on Sunday

Sunday we really had intended to take the day off from the garden. We picked all the tomatoes on Saturday and had a pile of rubbish in the wheelbarrow waiting to be taken away to the compost pile, and so we were just going to chill after we had lunch. Everyone was headed in different directions after church and so we went home to eat and rest. I sent a pint of the applesauce I made on Saturday home with Melissa for Carson. I told her to have him add some sugar because it is a little sour. He was busy working on a paper for school, so hopefully he was able to take a little time and have a treat.

Well, about 3 p.m. the time of rest at our place was over. James decided that we might get a freeze this week, and he wanted to make sure the onions were pulled because they could freeze in the ground as it is going to drop pretty low, or so the prediction seems to be indicating. The carrots and the beets were left in the ground because a good frost only makes them sweeter. I am guessing they come out on Thursday.

Sophia getting ready to be carried to the garden.

Today, we took the wagon, the potato fork and Sophia along with us to the garden. We closed the gate behind us and let Sophia run while we worked. She never is allowed outside unsupervised since she had the hypothyroidism diagnosis. She can’t take the pills and so is on a strict diet, which means she isn’t allow to eat any other cat food or human food or rodents. Of course since the neighbor cats hunt our area and the hawk frequents the back yard, there have not been any rodents. Hurrah!!

Pumpkins!!

So, much to our chagrin about the wagon to carry the plethora of onions we would dig out. There was barely a small basket of them to pick. The cosmos grew up and around them so intensely that most of the onions were smaller than the seed onions we planted to begin with. So much for that idea. We did, later, go back outside and cover the one remaining tomato plant, then we clipped and brought in the pumpkins. It was a good idea and they are quite ready to be picked. Now just to wash them and set them in the house as decoration. I am not putting them outside to freeze. I didn’t plant them and am quite happy to have them as volunteer produce. I don’t know why I would jeopardize keeping them. They are currently in the garage safe and sound under the table holding that vast array of onions (all 24 of them). That number is just a wild guess. We planted 100 each of white, yellow and purple. I guess in the future, I agree to pull the cosmos as if they are weeds when they are growing up between rows of vegetables of any kind. On the other hand, I have been getting a good crop of cosmos seeds. I wonder if those would be sellable???Hmmm. Who knows they might have a copyright on them. Of course, I have been taking my own seeds for so many years, I wonder if that still counts.

Long day of labor

James and I opted for a Saturday at home. It was supposed to be a day of much needed rest, but instead it was far more labor intensive than we spend during the week as teachers and preachers. I guess. Anyway the issue was to do as much as we could in the garden. I had a really hard time getting started, and in fact thought it would be best to let the tomatoes have as much time on the vine as we could allow today.

James started by digging out the rest of the potatoes. He said it might have been better if we had taken them sooner. It seems that there were worms or slugs or something underground eating on them after it rained. I stayed inside while he was digging and made some vegetable soup. I wanted to use up the carrots in the crisper before we dig out our carrots and store them there. I also had this idea about baking bread.

Opps I almost forgot, in the meantime before I really got going on the bread, I peeled up all of the damaged apples and made a batch of apple sauce. How could I forget about that. It took longer than the bread mess that I have printed out below.

So, here is the bread thing. I used this recipe that Paulina left behind. I misread the yeast amount and by the time I was adding the 4th cup of flour, I knew that something was very wrong. I needed 4 teaspoons and had read it as 1 tablespoon, so I was only off by 1 teaspoon, but something else must have been off. I actually accused her of being another Grandma Freda.

James asked what I meant, and the thing is that my grandmother would never really share any of her recipes because, well she just didn’t. If someone insisted on having her recipe, she would leave something out, or give it just a bit off, so that no one else could do what she did. I remember watching her bake pies and I was never smart enough to write down exactly what she did. No one could make a pie the way she did.

Finished Pretzels

Pretzel dough

OK so now I had this dough, and it was either figure out a way to salvage it or dump it. I know that 95 percent of my family would dump it. I am such a Scrooge that I pondered until I came up with a solution. I know that knepfla dough involves milk and eggs, so I added about 3/4 cup of milk and two eggs them mixed it as best I could. Next I turned it onto a floured board and kneaded it up. I flattened it out and cut it into strips then rolled it into a rope in my hands and made pretzels with most of it and bread sticks with the rest.

Bread twists

strips of dough

For the bread sticks, I sprinkled it with Italian seasoning and garlic salt. I let it rise for a bit, though it really didn’t rise much then I baked it at 350. Sadly I over baked the pretzels, but with a slathering of butter and some sea salt sprinkled on them when they were got out of the oven, they almost tasted like actual pretzels. The flavored bread sticks were quite good with the homemade vegetable soup. It was good dipping either in the hot soup after we came inside from working in the garden.

The tomato harvest

Close to 4 p.m. about when the sun was starting to head for the horizon, James and I went for the tomatoes. I started with the celebrity and the big boy plants. James had a table readied in the garage (the van will have to sit outside until the table is emptied), and we began to fill it. I filled the box seen at the end of the picture and the small section on the table that is covered with papers with the round tomatoes. James started picking the romas. Those seemed to take the longest, but I believe we had 20 plants of them. We filled and refilled and filled some more. I finally asked where the long plastic sleds were, and we filled them too. There is now only the plant beside the pumpkins left to be picked and those are extra-large cherry tomatoes. The small cherries are just going to be left, neither one of us has the inclination to pick them.

Pumpkins and one tomato plant left. Outside of the fence is the wheelbarrow filled with the pulled plants.

We also pulled all of the plants and the cages, except the one that the pumpkin went through. That will stay until Monday night when I pick the three pumpkins. It is supposed to frost really hard that night and by then we hope to have anything of significance inside the garage or the house. I guess the onion will need to be picked tomorrow, but the beets and the carrots are waiting until that frost because it helps sweeten them. Well that was our day…I have a feeling we will both sleep well tonight.

Light frost!

Garden in the morning.

So the first frost of this season hit overnight. It was not as bad as we expected but I am currently not home to check on the real damage. James had to recover all of the plants when he came back from his morning bike ride while we had expected. As he was going past the bank, he noticed the sign said 37 degrees F, but by the time he was filling gas in my van, it was 33. That was between 7 and 7:30 a.m.

Morning glories seemed hit even though James covered them.

I left the house a little after 9 a.m. because I had to stop at the bank. It was warmer then and the sun was shining, so I took some time to remove the cloths from the garden. I hung them all on the fence and the pictures show what I saw this morning. Ironically some of the covered plants looked frozen while some in the open looked fine. We will have to wait until later this afternoon to see the real results.

Roger watching me leave

Hope you all have a great day!

Chance of Frost under a full moon

full moon over covered garden

A lighter view of the moon.

About a month ago one of the men in our church predicted that we would have frost on the full moon. I think he is right, he was just off by one moon. Ha!! We are supposed to be having temperatures in the low to mid 30’s F overnight. Siri told me 35 by 7 a.m., but no idea what it would be at 8 a.m., so that was the unknown that made us go out and cover tonight. I was willing to take the chance, James said we didn’t work this hard to let them all freeze. I have been picking as much as possible each night, and that included another basket full tonight. It was enough to fill up what I took out of the boxes last night. Hurrah!!

Morning glory garden

Tonight the blankets are surrounding the tomatoes and the pumpkin, which are nestled on the ground between the tomato cages. I also covered the peppers, but there are no pictures of them. The wind has come up and we are pretty sure the blankets will be eased off before morning. Normally we would hold them down with bricks, but the cages have the plants so high I don’t think it will reach. James says he will check before he heads out on his bike ride in the morning and will reposition them. Frost is only a problem when the sun hits the cold plants, so they will be covered for sure before then if by chance they blow off. I took a few other pictures of the flowers just to know what they looked like because there was no way we were going to try to cover any of them. I did pull all of the house plants inside as soon as I came home from school and the other more outdoor types of plants like the petunias and the moss roses, we just pulled under the swing which sits under the upper deck. They should be more than fine there.

Looking at the full moon tonight, I think of those who were outside in Las Vegas last night under a nearly full moon having a wonderful time at a concert with their friends or family or just someone who had a ticket and stood beside them. How one person’s mindset can affect so many lives for such a long time. May God be with those who are grieving and those who are hurting and healing on this night under this full moon. May God’s love and healing power extend to all who are feeling the loss of this time, whether it is loss of a loved one, loss of time to recovery or even loss of innocence because we are all part of that issue. And by the way God, I am getting just a little bit tired of extending condolences and prayers for the families and those injured, maybe we could find a solution to this mess in our world. We, at least I, am open to some suggestions. Please let us know what you need from us to insure that these sort of events don’t happen anymore. Thanks God!!

Tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes!!

Picked Sunday afternoon.

Largest tomato of the year.

We have been picking in the garden as much as possible each night. I have been taking the tomatoes as soon as they are a little pink or orange, though some are nearly soft ripe before I find them. Tonight I moved a few of the plants from leaning left and tipped them right in order to get inside of them and find the ripest ones on the plant. The days are getting shorter and cooler, though the sun was out most of the day, which was nice, but not much is growing anymore. Mostly they are ripening on the plant and that is fine. I really don’t have room for all of them in the house until I figure out what to do with the cucumbers that really are not all that good. Add to that the stack of zucchini that is on the table and I see why we can’t fit any more tomatoes in the house. Checking out those pictures, I think that for supper tomorrow night we just might cook up a batch of jalapeño poppers.

When I got home from school tonight someplace between 4:30 and 5 p.m., I went to the garden to grab another batch of tomatoes. It looked much like the batch from Sunday, but this time there were more romas and less of the really huge ones. I brought them all inside and sorted what was on the table into the sink and put most of what I picked back on the table. I was able to empty on entire box on the table and most of the second one. The tomatoes in those shallow boxes have been ripening under paper most of last week. I had put the ripest into the sink thinking that I would can a batch on Wednesday night, but there were not enough to start the water boiling. Tonight I found enough. I had no idea as I was washing them and dropping them into the water that there were so many. As I took them out to cool, I used four cake pans and a large bowl. I always use those fancy cake pans, one is a bus, one a turkey and the other a bear, plus just one that is a rectangle. They cool much faster, and I refuse to dip them in cold water because I am such a contamination freak. This method has worked for me for years and that is how it is.

I did change a little this year in how I deal with what I used to consider the excess liquid in the pans. I used to drain it away, and now I realize it is from the tomatoes, so I strain it through the cone and put it aside to make juice. Tonight I made three quarts of juice and seven quarts of soup. I held back the final container of peeled tomatoes and one batch that was in the blender while I was filling the jars with the juice. I had two quarts full but only 2/3 in the third quart. I kept draining the liquid and a little bit of the runnier tomatoes through the sieve until I had that third quart full. I added 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, canning salt and sugar to each of those quarts then sealed them up to process.

7 qts. soup and 3 qts. of juice

The soup was interesting as always the ratio of salt and sugar is always determined by the flavor of the tomatoes. I dropped in one stick of butter, then added 1/4 a cup of lemon juice to assure it has the correct acidity for canning safety. I put in 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of canning salt then I whisked in 1 cup of sifted flour. That was a treat to coordinate. It became much easier when I began using the large whisk and switched hands. After a couple of taste tests, I added a bit more sugar and a touch more salt. In the end, I think I should have put in more flour. I didn’t want to over do the stiffness factor though because I was not sure how it would sit up after being processed. I used to really add lots of flour and ended up with really firm soup, almost like what you buy in the store. This batch has less liquid because I strained so much off for the juice. I wasn’t real sure on the flavor, but at the least it will be good when cooked up with a little milk and some chunks of fresh tomatoes. I did not used to like it that way, but it is pretty good on a cool fall day.

Well enough of this fun today. I hope to take some time tomorrow and share some of where we were this past weekend. It would be much easier if I had all of the pictures I tried to take. When I realized that my card was not in my camera it was already the second day of the reunion and I had missed lots of shots. Dang nab it. Oh well, I did still get some, and Paulina shared hers with me, too. Happy Gardening to you!!

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