The air has turned cool and the leaves are starting to turn beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow. I am totally in love with this weather and cannot think of a better time of year than the fall. There is just something magical about it. All spring and summer you have watched things grow from seed and produce the most bountiful crops and now it is time for them to slow down and take a rest. But of course not without producing a few more fall goodies from the garden. Don’t get me wrong the things harvested from the garden all spring and summer are delicious and fun to cook with, but there is something about picking a bright orange pumpkin cutting it open and making fresh pumpkin puree, or stewing a bushel of apples all day to make applesauce that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. There are just so many things that can be done with the fall harvest.
So now that I have gone on about fall and all of the things to come in the next few weeks, let’s talk about what is happening now in the garden. Our tomatoes are dwindling down, now let’s get this straight…these plants don’t really understand dwindle very well. We went to go pick yesterday and got the impression that there were just a few red tomatoes left on the vine… wrong…wrong..wrong. We came home with over 30 huge red ones in our box and there were still several dozen hanging out on the vine. Since we were harvesting tomatoes, we took a gander at what else was available. All of the new potatoes were harvested and ready to be eaten. Now let me tell you something about these potatoes, Wendy and I planted about 1 1/2 dozen seed potatoes in the spring and the harvest this year provided us with over 100 pounds of red skinned beauties!! Some of them were the size of my face. And to think that we planted another whole row to be used as late picks that haven’t even been touched yet! Amazing! Onto the zucchini, we took home another baseball bat and browsed at the collection my in-laws have of about 20 more bats left to try and pawn off. The pumpkins were all harvested because a beetle got into the patch and was starting to eat them all, so they harvested the good ones and took out the patch. They were able to save about 30 plus good ones. I scooped up 5 of them and my mind started spinning of ideas for these babies…pies, muffins, cakes, stews, roasted seeds, and the list goes on. The acorn squash was ready so we got a few of those. Bugs got into the onions as well, so they were all harvested and drying in the sun before they would be stored in the cold room for the winter. The pepper plants were slowing down as well and all of the red beauties were ready to be picked. We went over to the garden to pick up a few tomatoes and ended up with 30 tomatoes, 5 pumpkins, 3 acorn squash, red onions, yellow onions, leeks, red peppers, potatoes, zucchini, beets, basil, mint, and carrots! Now, where to start with all of this goodness.
Since the tomatoes spoil the fastest, I will begin with them. I keep saying to myself I have done enough canning for the season, and then I find another super recipe that I really want to try. This time it was for canned bruschetta. I think the taste of bruschetta is so refreshing on a slice of toasted bread that I couldn’t imagine going all winter and spring without it, because we are trying really hard to only eat things in season. So I thought let’s can it.
Lately we have really gotten into this whole canning thing and found that the biggest expense is the jars. We like to give some of our canned goods away as gifts, so that means the jar needs to be replaced… no big deal. The jars are on sale all of the time. Now the other day we were at one of our favorite thrift stores and found a whole box of practically brand new canning jars. We were able to get 15 jars for $3.00 and some of them were vintage beauties. We also found some really cool corked blue glass bottles for our herb infused vinegars which are also great to give for gifts.
The bruschetta recipe was pretty straightforward…chop veggies until your arm is just about ready to fall off, put them in a jar, and cover them with hot herb infused brine. So simple! Rob and I set up quite the system to make the whole process of chopping tomatoes a little quicker because I did choose to take on this project in between shifts at work. I changed a few things about the recipe. I added a chopped onion to the tomato mixture to give more flavor and I also didn’t peel the tomatoes before chopping. All in all, this recipe went smoothly. The only things I would do differently is add the herbs directly to each jar instead of into the vinegar brine because they did not distribute evenly in each jar. During the hot water bath, we heard a strange sound, so we opened the pot and didn’t notice anything wrong, so we closed the pot. Later we found out that one of our jars cracked so it had to be tossed. Out of the nearly 60 plus jars that we have canned this summer, that is the first one that has cracked or not sealed properly!
The beauty about canning is that you can enjoy the summer’s harvest all winter long and not feel guilty about eating fruits or veggies because they were processed in your own kitchen when they were in season. After growing so many neat things and supporting local farmers all summer, it doesn’t even make sense to purchase items grown in labs or in other countries just because you want a tomato for example in January. This is just ludicrous. Ok enough of my opinions and onto the recipes. In addition to the canned bruschetta recipe, I have included a recipe for Herb Infused Vinegars. This one is really simple to do and makes a lovely gift. The idea came from a woman who I met while we were WWOOFing on Amherst Island about a month ago. The herbs were also from her garden. I have also included a simple pesto recipe using walnuts instead of pine nuts. It is excellent tossed with pasta, sundried tomatoes, and chicken. Enjoy!
Bruschetta in a Jar
Recipe From: Ball Canning
Makes about 7 (8 oz) half pints
You will need:
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp dried basil
2 Tbsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
9 cups chopped cored peeled plum tomatoes (about 4 lb or 12 medium)
7 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands
1.) PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2.) COMBINE garlic, wine, wine vinegar, water, sugar, basil, oregano and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 5 minutes or until garlic is heated through. Remove from heat.
3.) PACK tomatoes into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Ladle hot vinegar mixture over tomatoes leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.
4.) PROCESS filled jars in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
Herb Infused Vinegar
Large bunch of herbs
White wine or white vinegar
1. Get a large jar and stuff it with washed and dried fresh herbs. Choose one herb or a combination of your favorite herbs. Tarragon, Thyme, and Mint work well.
2. Cover the herbs with your choice of vinegar. Note.. if using white wine vinegar, your finished product will have a brownish tint to it.
3. Set the jar in a dark, cool place for 5-6 weeks undisturbed.
4. Place herbs from large jar into smaller fancy bottles. Cover with vinegar. Add peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander, dill seeds, etc to the bottle to adjust the flavor. The possibilities are endless.
Two combinations that I tried:
French tarragon, black peppercorns, mustard seeds, and white vinegar
Habanero chili peppers, peppercorns, fresh basil, white vinegar
Basil Walnut Pesto
Created by: Gretchen Brown
Makes: 1 cup
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup walnuts
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1. Pulse the walnuts a few times in food processor. Add basil and continue to pulse. Add olive oil in a steady stream and continue to pulse. Add cheese to blend. Add salt and pepper if needed.
2. Toss with hot pasta, grilled chicken, and sundried tomatoes for a fast dinner. Can also be used as a base for a pizza instead of a tomato sauce.