Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings: Weekly Local Booty 8/24-8/30-2008

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Weekly Local Booty 8/24-8/30-2008

We ended up getting quite a load of peppers from our container garden this week, and the Roma tomato plant produced like crazy. We think it's probably getting really close to the end of our "community garden season", the Roma doesn't appear to be starting any more tomatoes and the squash, well, they don't look that great and they just aren't producing much of anything. The Better Boy might surprise us with a few more tomatoes, but we aren't expecting many more large loads in our back packs from there this year.

The farmer's market is overflowing with goodies it being "bounty season" around here - granted, the weather this summer has done a lot for the variety and abundance of some of the crops, but there are still tons of yummy delights waiting to be found.

Here is what we got from our container and community gardens this week:

A couple of small bell peppers.

A petite bell pepper and a jalapeno.

Another small bell pepper. I apologize for the errant pictures of just one and two peppers, but the plants don't produce all at once (thankfully!).

Sorry for the poor quality picture here, the camera was being funky. We've got lots of Roma tomatoes that are continuing to ripen in our windowsill, some banana peppers from the community garden, and a small yellow straightneck squash. Brett went ahead and picked this little guy since he was "technically" large enough to be worth taking, but with the squash bugs being so prevalent, we didn't want to take the chance that they would get it while we waited for it to get larger.

Lots of ripe cayennes (!!!!) and a petite bell pepper.

Hot Hungarian Wax peppers.

Here is the CSA for this week (can you believe we have been getting our CSA for 16 weeks?!):

We've got: 2 long yellow hot peppers of some sort (I didn't know there were peppers in the bag until I got home or else I would have asked them what kind they were, if I can remember, I'll ask him next Saturday), 2 cucumbers, 2 zucchini, one (odd, eh?) green onion, some basil, and lots of Roma tomatoes.

This week's farmers market booty - this haul cost $27:

Starting from the right we have: 2 Herbal Oats granola bars (we got the "energy" kind this week), 2 red onions, a ripe Black Hungarian Pepper (for it's seeds, the purveyor gave it to us for free since we only wanted one and planned on saving the seeds!), 6 small tomatoes, lots of jalapenos, lots of poblano peppers, an eggplant, eggs, basil, a cantaloupe, and a small bag of "ciabattini" (mini loaves of ciabatta) from the local bakery Uprise, and 4 bulbs of garlic.

This week's food preservation activities included:
  • My first attempt at canning salsa.
  • Freezing hot Hungarian and hot banana peppers.
  • Freezing jalapenos.
  • Re-making the ristra.
For my first attempt at canning salsa I decided to make a half batch (supposedly 3 pints) of the Spicy Tomato Salsa recipe from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving. This was the first time that I peeled and de-seeded tomatoes, and let me tell you, there has to be an easier way of doing it than I did. Not only was it a pain in the ass, it took forever! But once I got done with that, the rest of the task was a breeze. I halved this recipe, which originally yielded 6 pints, so a half batch should yield 3 right? That's what I thought. I used a food scale, I measure all my ingredients, and I ended up with 2 1/2 pints. That's right, 2 1/2. What the hell?!?! Is it possible that my tomatoes were "seedier" than the ones the Ball Book was accounting for?

At any rate, we processed the two full pints and stuck that half pint in the fridge to eat.

Check out my first canned salsa!

I was really excited when, after a few minutes of being finished "processing", the lids popped! Wahoo!

We tried the salsa out a couple hours after I made it, and it was really good. Really good, Brett said it was the closest thing to a "restaurant style" salsa he had ever had, well, outside of a restaurant.

I don't think I would agree with their terminology of "spicy", this is an incredibly mild salsa, but it's really good. Next time though, I am going to substitute a hotter pepper for the jalapenos. If you are gonna call something spicy, it should be spicy.

Freezing the peppers, was, as always, really easy. I just washed 'em, cut the stems off, packed 'em in freezer bags, and had Brett use a straw to suck all the air out of 'em. He has "iron lungs".

Since we got all those ripe cayennes off the plant, I decided to remake our "ristra", which was more like small clumps of peppers drying in various places around our apartment because I never got around to tying them all together. So I just made a new one today, and here is a picture of it hanging from a hook on our ceiling. The picture isn't all that great (all my excuses for always taking bad pictures!), but it was blowing around and hard to photograph.

Pretty neat.

Needless to say, I'm a bit worn out now. This doesn't look like much, but after lugging home a huge load of food from the market and grocery store (we always run across the street to the grocery store after we go to the market to pick up anything we couldn't find at market), preparing all this food (and I'm slow with these things), and doing the dishes, my day was filled.

Well, I'm off to make a simple (and hopefully good) new meal Brett came up with and to find out how Mizzou did in their first football game against Illinois. Let the border wars begin! I missed football...

'Til next time.


ChickPea said...

Kudos on your first canning attempt--you are braver than I. I hear you on being tired from lugging groceries! I don't have a car either, so I walk to the store and back every week--great exercise but sometimes a little annoying!

Bobbi said...

For me, the easiest way to peel tomatoes is to dip them into boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds and then immediately dip them in ice water - the skins slid right off. As for the seeds, I usually run the peeled tomatoes thru a tomato seive.

Lisa (Show Me Vegan) said...

Your first canned salsa, congrats! Hope you guys have a great weekend and get to eat some delicious meals.

Daphne said...

The easiest way to deal with tomatoes is if you have a tool like the Victorio Strainer. Just pop them in the top and turn the handle. Out comes the pulp from one spot and the seeds and skins in another. Its flaw is that it totally purees your tomatoes, so if you want them chunky, you have to do it by hand. It is not a problem for me since my husband hates chunks. If you have a lot it is really worth it. A few are not worth it at all.

Melinda said...

Wow, look at all those peppers! They're beautiful. Ours are coming along, doing surprisingly well in our cold, rainy, horribly cloudy summer (sigh).

That salsa looks fabulous!

Chile said...

Congrats on your salsa canning. I've learned to always have an extra jar or two ready when I can anything, including one half the size of the others. This way, if the recipe is slightly short, I can stuff it in a smaller jar. If it makes more than it's supposed to, I have a sterile jar all ready to go.

Enjoy your peppers and tomatoes while they last. Any winter garden plans?

DP Nguyen said...

Hi Jennifer, That harvest looks amazing! And your salsa looks very good too. You should post the recipe. I have started canning this year, so I'm always impressed when others do it too. I might can some apple sauce. I wish I had the bell peppers to make salsa though.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha--one green pepper IS pretty odd! But, you take what you can get, right?!

Congrats on the salsa making! I have always been intimidated by canning salsa--probably for the very reason you mentioned of peeling and seeding all the tomatoes! I used to can sauce with my aunt, but we took the easy way out and just threw everything in, cooked it, and then ran it through a ricer/food mill to get rid of the seeds. But, as someone else mentioned, that will produce a smooth consistency, and won't really work for a chunky salsa...

I know what you mean about being tired from carrying the groceries--I walked 2 miles today carrying 2 cantaloupes (plus a bunch of other groceries) back to my apt. Talk about a sore shoulder!


Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Chickpea - Thank you, I was a little nervous, but we have eaten some of the salsa we canned, and so far, are still alive. ;-)

That's awesome that you don't have a car! It IS great exercise, but you are right, every so often, it is a bit of a hassle - especially if you are trying to lug a large load or carry something big.

Bobbi - Thank you for the tip, the website that I found that explained how to do that didn't say anything about dunking in cold water and told you to blanch the tomatoes for a whole minute! I thought that seemed like a long time to blanch something, but I figured they were the "experts" and they should know best. I learned my lesson on that one!

Lisa - Thanks! We have and we've also had some pretty killer meals this weekend that I'll be posting about later this week.

Daphne - Thanks for the tip, I'll have tokeep my eyes peeled for that strainer. Smooth or chunky salsas are both good in my view, it just depends on my mood and what I am planning on using the salsa for.

Melinda - We have a slight "problem" with peppers, or better stated, I have a slight problem with peppers - oh how I love them.

Sounds like you've had the same type of summer that we had. Our weatherman, not too long ago, was running a poll to see who thought it would get back above 90 degrees before the end of summer - that is so hard to grasp - it's summer in the Midwest, it is usually miserably hot!

Glad to hear your peppers are doing well in spite of all the obstacles.

Thanks, it was really tasty!

Chile - Thanks, and thanks for the tip. Unfortunately, all I had on hand were pint sized jars, but that is a great idea having some half-pints for incidents like this.

Oh, I plan on it.

Yep, we are going to attempt an indoor winter vegetable garden - we'll be documenting our progress in the weekly garden update. We both have high hopes for the greens and herbs (so long as our feline companions stick to their "fodder crops"), but we're also experimenting to see how small squash, tomatillos, and peppers do indoors. We have south facing windows, know how to self-pollinate the flowers, and have some ideas for maintaining the soil temperatures, so we'll see how it goes.

Dp Nguyen - Thank you! I would post the recipe, but it comes from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, and I don't want to get sued for copyright infringement. If you wanted this recipe, just drop me an email (my email address is on the right sidebar of the blog) and I'd be happy to give it to you.

This is only my second time canning, but I am just starting to get comfortable with the process. I think with experience, it likely becomes second nature like most other things.

Hmmmm, you might be in luck even sans bell peppers, the salsa recipe I made didn't call for any bells, just jalapenos.

Courtney - That is what I thought too, but I wasn't going to complain!

It was quite the ordeal with the tomatoes, and I'll be honest, I did some cursing and made quite the mess!

That is a GREAT IDEA what you and your aunt used to do. I'll keep that in mind.

Wowsa, 2 cantaloupes, muscle woman! I bet your shoulder was sore when you got home! It's always odd taking off a really heavy bag, you almost feel like you are floating for a few seconds afterwards. :-)

Erin said...

Look at all the goods! The cayenne peppers are so cute. That's a great deal at the farmers market for all that!

It is one of the best feelings to hear that "pop" when you're preserving stuff in jars.

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Erin - It was a pretty productive week, all things considered.

And I DO love the cayennes, their spiciness holds a dear place in my heart. ;-)

I thought so too, it's amazing how good the prices at the market are, we couldn't have gotten all this stuff from the grocery store for this price.

When I hear that "pop" I can breathe a sigh of relief, it's the first sign that you did it right!