Canstravaganza 2010, part 1

So there are 365 dinners in a year. You can take out the requisite fancy dinners that other people make, like thanksgiving, and the nights out to eat for birthdays, and you still have, something like 350 dinners to figure out. Now, I like to cook, so in the Jenson house we don't do a lot of frozen pizza or mac and cheese. That means 350 nights of chopping and peeling and cleaning and browning? NO! We do have one convenience food that we truly love: Spaghetti. Yum!
So, I had a great thought: what if we canned up some spaghetti sauce and tomatoes to use for our weekly spaghetti dinners? THAT WOULD BE AWESOME!
Then, when strolling the streets of the wicked cool St Paul Farmer's Market, my Mother in law and I came across giant boxes of roma tomatoes, for just $12. SUCH a good deal. seriously. It's like $50 of tomatoes. I had a canner and Desmond and I ran out and got quart jars and canning salt, and we figured it out. Steps to canning tomatoes (please do more research than my blog):
1. Get some tomatoes, canner, can lifter, lids, canning salt, and some water. Oh, and get some ice. Run the jars through the dishwasher to sterilize them (if you are lucky, your dw will have a sterilize setting like ours does. We are lucky)
2. Put a pot of water on the stove to boil while you wash your tomatoes. If you have tomatoes with pesticides on them, I would use that veggie wash if I were you. Tomatoes have thin skins and the chemicals will get into your food in the boiling water.
3. When the water is boiling, put the tomatoes into the boiling water. Watch the tomatoes, and pull them out of the water as soon as you see the skin split. Put the tomato into the ice water.
4. When the tomatoes have cooled a little, peel the skin off. Try to get only the outermost skin.
5. Now you have choices: can them as they are, throw a few pieces of basil or hot peppers into the jar, make some salsa, spaghetti sauce, or dice or crush them. Put some canning salt and some sugar in to each jar (2:1 sugar to salt)
6. Whatever you do, pack those jars as tight as you can. Wipe the rims and then slap a lid on that sucker and put the rim on it.
7. Fill up your canner with water and get it to boil. The canner will be huge and will sit awkwardly on top of the stove, but it will work out fine.
8. Put the jars into the can putter-inner thing that comes with the canner and then put it into the boiling water. Make sure the water covers the tops of the cans by an inch or two.
9. Put the lid on and let that puppy boil for a while. Recipes I have used have anything from 30 minutes to 1hour 25 minutes.
10. Take the jars out and let them sit undisturbed, away from drafts, somewhere to cool for about 12 hours. I would suggest setting them on cookie sheets with a lip on them to avoid water everywhere.
11. After a couple of hours, check the cans to make sure that they are sealed by flicking the tops. If they sound solid and don't give at all, you are golden. If not, use that jar right away, stick it in the fridge, or try to re-seal. We did 14 jars (our 15th didn't fill up quite all the way, so it's in our fridge right now), and we had to re-seal one. No problemo.

Pictures to come. Oh, and pictures of our new kitchen, now proudly featuring a sink, stove, fridge, and dishwasher. Nice!
Have a happy canning season!


So this is a long time coming.....

Oh man, I don't even know how long it has been since my last blog post, you guys. Way too long, you're right. Sorry buddies. We have had a hectic couple of months. We closed on our house, and we are now homeowners with a mortgage and everything. Like real adults. Seems a little weird, but I guess I am not a kid anymore. I taught summer school, and Desmond is continuing his job as a research assistant.
On the home front, we have been renovating our kitchen. So far, we demo-ed it. To the studs. Since then we have run new electrical, new plumbing, installed new windows, insulated, and widened a doorway. We are doing everything ourselves, with the help of lovely, talented family members. Well, except we are paying a guy to do our countertops. We have been hanging drywall and are hoping (praying, even) that we will get to install our new flooring and new cabinets this weekend, which is almost-brings-a-tear-to-my-eyes exciting. Renovating a kitchen is exciting, and I like being able to customize things to meet our needs, but I have been washing dishes in the bathtub for 6 weeks, you guys. I have been cooking all of our meals without a stovetop or oven. Everything we own is in the wrong place, and everything in the house, including me, is covered with drywall dust. We are working really hard and it is tiring. exhausting. Hence no blog posts. And I can't figure out how to put pictures on the blog from this computer, so sorry. No pics. I wanted to outline the whole kitchen remodel on here, so we would have a record of this project. But I am not so sure I want to remember this project when I am done--I will never renovate anything again, and we definitely have some fixing left to do in our house!
Garden-wise, I have been amazed how well our garden grows without our help....just turn sprinkler on the garden for like 15 minutes a day, and our garden continues to produce plenty for us. Mostly, we have been eating big salads, fresh from our garden. I have a grocery bag full of Kale waiting for a day with a stovetop to blanch and freeze. Our cabbage is also looking awesome, calling out for a cabbage roll (just looking for a really appealing crock-pot recipe)! And we are starting to get good tomatoes and cucumbers. If I could be friends with any produce, it would be tomatoes and cucumbers, so I am pretty excited. I have canning plans for those two buddies. My awesome mother-in-law helped me find the supplies I needed to can stuff, so again, we are just waiting for a stove (patiently, for the most part....).
So here is a "recipe" I can share with you. Since my cucumber plants are freaking insane, I harvested out all of those awesome carrots. Our half-pack of carrot seed strips netted us roughly 7 pounds of carrots--we have sandy sandy soil, which really helps our root veggies.
Creamy carrot soup, made without a stove:
5 or more pounds of chopped up carrots (I made 1/8 inch coins)*
1 quart chicken or veggie stock
1 coffee cup full of half and half (I used fat free and it worked fine).
3 tbsp finely chopped onion and garlic (just a mix of the two, to your taste)
1 spoonful of unsalted butter
1 small handful of rosemary
1 small handful of sage
*Measurements are totally, totally approximate
In a crock pot or the microwave, cook carrots in stock until softened. Stir in butter when the carrots are warmed but not yet soft.
Blend the carrots with some cream or half and half in the blender. Make sure not to blend it while it's really hot and make sure to blend it in small batches to avoid any potential danger.
Add sage and rosemary. Or, do nutmeg. Yum, that would be good. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Heat it up. Eat it and be happy.

There you go, if you grow carrots, sage, and rosemary, your soup is delicious and almost free. It makes tons of soup.

I promise we will try to write more, but I gotta say, I have a feeling I will be washing dishes that are already clean because I will be so excited to have a dishwasher. :)

Any good recipes involving basil? All three of my (store bought) basil plants are HUGE....and we have pesto for days......

Ok, until next time,
Happy planting (wait, it's August....) happy weeding!!