Sunday, July 24, 2016

2016 International Can-It-Forward Day

July 22, 2016 was the 6th annual International Can It Forward Day! 

The Can It Forward tradition began as a way to share the joy of canning. You don't have to be a foodie, a gardener or a canner to participate or enjoy the "fruits" of labor.  

The last few years have seen a resurgence in the art of home canning and food preservation. Everyone has different reasons for wanting to learn. Whether it is to continue a family tradition, to have better control of your food chain or you simply want to learn to make sauce from a bounty of garden tomatoes, there are plenty of resources from which one can use.

In honor of Can It Forward, the following sites posted recipes or hosted videos.

My contribution to Can it Forward was one of my favorite recipes, 2 day Zesty Zucchini relish. This is one of the first 3 recipes I learned to can when I took my canning boot-camp. If you do a search on the "interweb" as the hubbs likes to call it, you will find quite a few variations of zucchini relish. Mine is a 4-2-1 ratio recipe and is somewhat similar to the Ball recipe. But of course I have to tweak it and put my own stamp on the recipe.

9-10 half pint jars
water bath canner
magnetic wand for lids
paper towels
heavy kitchen towels
heavy baking sheet
non-reactive stock pot
small saucepan or tea kettle of hot water to activate rings
measuring cups/ spoons
sharp knife
1 or 2 gallon Ziploc bags

8 cups cubed zucchini 1/2 inch cubes
2 cups diced onion
1 cup of diced red pepper
6 tablespoons of canning salt
2 & 2/3 cups apple cider vinegar, natural, No caramel coloring added
2 cups of firmly packed brown sugar
1 &1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
2 level teaspoons of dry powdered mustard
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 and 1/2 teaspoon pickling spice  (I pick out the cinnamon stick if using store bought)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon shredded horseradish

DAY 1:Clean, destem and remove bad spots from all vegetables.
Dice all vegetables into 1/2 inch cubes.
Place diced, rinsed vegetables into a large ziploc bag with canning salt.
Cover with enough cool water to cover.
Store in refrigerator overnight.

DAY2: Assemble canning supplies
Wash jars, rings, ladle and funnel.
place jars on a heavy duty tray in a preheated oven (mine is digital so I set it to 215°F)
Fill water bath canner with the correct volume of water, so it will cover the the jars by 1-2 inches. Bring to boil and hold temperature steady.
Drain and rinse vegetables. Press to remove as much water as possible.
In a separate, non-reactive stock pot-Combine Vinegar, brown sugar, spices. Bring to a slow boil.
Add the vegetables to the vinegar solution. Bring to a rapid boil, stir and cook for 7 minutes.
Remove jars from oven

Remove from heat and ladle into the hot jars.
Break up any air pockets and leave 1/2 inch headspace.
Use a paper towel dipped in hot water (remove excess water) to wipe the rim of the jar.
Remove lids from hot water bath, tap off excess water and apply rings finger tight.
Process in the water bath for 10 minutes. (Time begins when water has resumed rapid boil)
I did small batch canning, processing 4 jars at a time. I recently installed a glass cooktop, so I am nervous about the weight of the canner.
At the end of the 10 minutes, removes the jars carefully and place on folded towels in a draft free location.
You will hear the sound of success almost immediately--the metallic ping as the lids pop close.
Leave the jars undisturbed until completely cooled. Check the lid for flex--there shouldn't be any!
If the jars failed to seal, place in the refrigerator immediately and use within 2 weeks.
Otherwise remove the rings, wipe down the jars, label and then enjoy.
This recipe makes 8 full half pint jars and a 3/4  half pint jar which is my "taste jar".  I don't process the taste jar, it goes directly to the refrigerator.
Properly canned, this is shelf stable for a year. Not that it lasts that long!

My favorite use of this relish is in chicken, egg, potato or macaroni salads. Sometimes just a spoonful by itself, too.

**DISCLAIMER** I am not a professional or expert canner. Any recipe and instructions posted on this blog is for informational purposes only and does not serve as a legal liability. Please refer to to your local state extension office for help and always follow proper canning protocol.
When in doubt--Throw it out!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Freaking Fracking Rabbits!


The freaking, fracking, rabbits are eating through my fence. Two weeks. Two stinking weeks I have had my fence and there are FIVE patches. 

You realize of course, this means war!

I have already decided next year, I am building a hardware cloth enclosure. And I am electrifying it!

At least the deer have only left paw prints and a few, umm... presents near the garden perimeter.

In my ongoing quest for critter deterrent, we have nearly tried just about everything around the perimeter or inside the garden.

Chunks of Irish Spring
Animal urine (dogs)
Coffee Grounds
Bone Meal
Blood Meal
Fabric sheet sachets (to hold human hair or pet fur)
Mylar strips
Aluminum pie pans
a scarecrow
a plastic owl
I even had the hubbs get tanked and pee around the garden.

Except the critters keep coming. Apparently I grow really good stuff, man. HAHA

Off came the gardening gloves. No more Ms. Nice Gardner.  It's on like donkey kong.

I ponied up the money for Liquid Fence brand  Deer and Rabbit deterrent. It is eco friendly.  The ingredients are  "Putrescent Egg Solids, Garlic Powder, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate, Water". 

This stuff is rank! I accidently got some on my clothes and thought I would need to burn them. It actually washed out just fine. Once it dries it is barely discernable to the human sense of smell. The dogs found it quite interesting though.

Yes- I could have DIY'ed a similar batch  but I didn't want my house to reek. That is most definitely a cook it outside kind of smell. And I wanted instant gratification because I was mad as hell.

Last night I sprayed the outside and inside perimeter of the garden, all the raised beds, around the grape arbor, around my remaining peach tree and just to be a jerk around the compost bin. The idea is this is supposed to mimic decay/ decomposition and the critters will think predator activity is nearby. All the reviews tended to give a high ratings. Although one review said it may draw in  some confused turkey vultures. Oh joy.

There didn't appear to be any additional perimeter breach. We also had a monster bonfire last night. So I am not sure if the liquid fence worked or if the fire/smoke scared the critters away.

Look at my delicious little lovelies...NO FREELOADING CRITTERS are touching these!
How about you? Are you doing battle with critters?

Sunday, July 3, 2016

No time for housework, I have a garden to tend!

Remember when I was wishing and hoping

And complaining I had the 3 stooges of seedlings

And some stuff was way overgrown and out of control

And everything was all muckety muck

But I persevered. Slowly bringing the garden back to life. I cleaned out the weeds. SO MANY WEEDS!  I added bird netting and a small section of plastic fence to protect the strawberries.

I planted some blueberries plants (AGAIN!) and used a pair of folding trellis draped with  bird netting

I tried using bird netting to protect the blackberries but it was a big ol' tangled mess.

There had to be a better way.  I made a berry hut. It has some design flaws. This is the first edition. I will post more about it later.

I installed 110 feet of plastic fencing. I would have preferred to install a stronger fence but budget wise this is what I could afford. Maybe next year...

And I made an ugly, pantless scarecrow. HAHA, I used a nylon chinese lantern for the head and I stuffed the body with plastic bags.

Why yes, my scarecrow IS holding a pin-wheel.
Then I upgraded the ugly pink head to the Bird-Be-Gone Scary Eyes which I bought at Rural King. It is rather frightening in appearance. The eyes are reflective. 

I have my eyes on you!
And I mulched every last damn inch of raised beds and the veggie plot. I used pine chips for the blueberries, strawberries, rhubarb and black berries, since they are all prefer slightly more acidic soil. FirstMan from Two Men and a Little Farm gave me the idea for bagged straw bales, where I used every where else. 

Don't mind the weeds around the raised beds. I need to lift the bird netting to do weed control.

I even added a small flower patch inside the veggie plot. I hope these flowers will draw pollinators to the garden.

I added a cute little rain gauge and a few solar lights on the inside perimeter of the fenced plot.
So...whatcha think? I am absolutely in love with my garden this year :)